How to break into a van

As thieves become more sophisticated, they are using more advanced techniques to break into vans across the UK.

The old but widely used technique ‘smash and grab’ seen criminals target windows as an opening to your contents but has recently faded in popularity as thieves discover more tech-savvy ways to target traders’ vans. With technology continuing to advance, thieves are using this to their advantage by adapting new methods which prove more tactical and less risky.

over 13,000 in England and Wales last year

The rise in van theft also correlates with the ongoing trend of catalytic convertors being stole in broad daylight. A recent report stated that cases were over 13,000 in England and Wales last year – up from 2,000 in 2018.  Catalytic converters, which by law are required to be fitted to all petrol cars, are made up of extremely valuable materials such as palladium, rhodium and platinum – making it a luxurious find for thieves.

There are three van theft methods that have seen a rise across the UK so here is some information on each and how you can protect your van against them:

Peel and steal


Whilst tradespeople are investing in more advanced locking systems for their work vans in order to prevent theft, criminals have found a new way of accessing a van known as ‘peel and steal’. Responsible for 46% of van break-ins, this new technique requires the thief to apply pressure to the middle of the sliding door with their knees, widening the gap at the top of the door between the door and the vans’ bodywork. This allows the criminals to grip the top of the door and simply peel it backwards to reveal the contents. The fact that most van sensors only detect movement from the sliding door switches means that these sneaky thieves will not trigger the vans alarm system. The worrying thing is that the majority of vans on the road are vulnerable to this new technique as the van doors can be peeled down even when the van is securely locked. The best way to prevent yourself being a victim of this crime is to park cleverly. Try to park your van strategically leaving no access route for thieves to pull down your doors; suitable parking spaces are close to walls or fences.

Electronic Keys hacking

As technology advances, it opens up new ways for clever criminals to target traders’ vans. Key-fob hacking is a new technique that thieves are using to gain access to vans across the country, without any strenuous work. This usually requires two people working in close proximity to intercept and replicate the signal sent from your key fob to your vans locking system. The scary thing is that you don’t even have to unlock your van for these thieves to intercept the signal – the keys could be idle inside your house. Thieves can use this signal, with the help of a widely available modern-day gadget to gain easy access to your van and its goods. What’s more is that some of these devices can pick up signals from over 100 metres way, making it a favourable method for many criminals. If you want to avoid becoming a victim of this advanced break-in method, it’s recommended to keep your keys’ sealed in a Faraday pouch. Lined with a special foil, it denies thieves from sending radio waves, meaning it’s impossible for them to access the signal.

3. Exposing the locks

Another common van theft technique that is used by criminals across the UK requires some tools and manual work. Experienced thieves use this method to expose the central locking system and gain easy access into a van. By simply using a tool such as a wrench, they will begin removing the outer plastic of the door lock, before turning and forcing the lock away. Once unlocked, the doors will be open for access and venerable to an easy theft. For experienced criminals, this can be done extremely quickly and therefore poses a threat to traders who leave their van unattended or out-of-sight whilst at work. To reduce the risk of this happening to your van, we recommended investing in a stronger locking system such as deadlocks. This will make the process trickier for potential thieves and makes it much harder for them to gain access to your goods.

There are a number of ways that you can reduce the chance of being a victim of van theft, from investing in specialist locking systems to being mindful of where you leave your van.  

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