Thefts from vans averaged £5,091 in 2013

In the past year ECIC has seen the value of claims for theft of tools from contract sites and vans rise from £2,865 on average per claim to £5,091. 

The highest value claim was an eye watering £83,500 for electrical cabling and copper piping from a site in Kidderminster. However the most common thefts are from vans parked in hotel car parks and B&Bs as tradespeople, on short term contracts, board away from home. With work in the construction sector ramping up, ECIC is offering security tips to help tradespeople keep thieves at bay.

Of all loss claims reported to ECIC in 2012/2013, 17 per cent were for thefts. While the majority of claims were for theft of tools from vans, higher value items such as laptops were also the subject of a number of claims along with equipment on site, highlighting the need to ensure that not only vans are secured but that as far as possible tools and equipment at a contract site as secure as possible. One policyholder left all his tools in his van parked outside his house and then went to New York for the weekend. He came back to find his van had been emptied. Clearly where possible policyholders should consider removing high value items from vans overnight and indeed for any prolonged period.

Presenting an additional challenge to tradespeople and their insurers, ECIC was recently notified of a spate of thefts from Ford Transits where there was no sign of forced entry. Investigations revealed that a tool readily available on the Internet can be used to open the door of a van without force within 30 seconds – it can then lock the door again leaving no sign of entry.

Policyholders should be alive to these issues and take greater care where possible to safeguard items in a van and not simply rely on the van being locked as a safe way of protecting items inside.

Ian Hollingworth, claims manager for ECIC, said, ‘During the downturn in the construction sector thefts from vans became more prevalent. As well as being an enormous inconvenience, it can create work delays, unexpected costs if equipment needs to be hired while the claim is processed and even jeopardise contracts. 

‘There are simple steps you can take to reduce the risk. For a start it’s a good idea to park in well lit places such as under street lights and close to buildings and security cameras. It’s obvious but make sure vans are locked at all times and emptied at night and when going away. It may be frustrating if you are making frequent visits to the vehicle to store or retrieve tools but it only takes a minute for a thief to gain entry and make off with a high value tool.

‘Sadly, it is relatively easy to obtain specialist lock picks over the Internet and while the cost of changing locks can seem high, it is certainly worth considering changing locks to incorporate an anti-pick replacement cylinder endorsed by the Thatcham Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre. Deadlocks can also help improve security and consider accredited Slamlocks. These automatically lock doors when they are shut, adding an extra layer of protection over manufacturers’ door handles.’

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