Thieves have stolen tools from 161 vans in the Melton local policing area in just the last six months.
The worrying figures have prompted police to launch a special crime prevention operation to combat the offences.
Melton, which also includes Rutland and Harborough, has been identified as one of the county’s hot spots for thefts from vans with more than 900 reported across Leicestershire since May.
Police are urging tradespeople to remove tools from their vehicle overnight and take other measures to thwart the criminals as part of Operation Pioneer.
Insp Simon Preston, the lead officer for vehicle crime, told the Melton Times: “In rural locations like Melton it’s very difficult to have resources because of the sheer number of incidents we have to respond to in the city.
“We can’t have police officers in every village so we would ask people to report suspicious activity to us.
“We would also ask tradespeople to remove their tools and equipment from their vehicle overnight because we have seen a large number broken into over the last six months.”
Tools valued at thousands of pounds have been taken in the raids and it is often difficult to repatriate them with the owners when they are recovered.
Insp Preston said: “Our advice is to photograph your tools and make a note of the serial numbers because that makes our job of recovering them a lot easier.”
Some arrests have been made during the last six months but theft from vans is clearly still rife in Melton and throughout the county.
Even if a vehicle is locked, some offenders are able to break in with no signs of forced entry by using devices which override the locking system. Police have also received reports of windows being smashed and locks being forced.
Some of the thefts have happened in hotel car parks and officers are now liaising with managers to ensure crime prevention advice gets through to guests.
“Some people come from outside the area to commit this type of crime and there is an element of organised crime with some of it,”
Insp Preston added: “People have to have a level of responsibility for their property.
“It can be difficult after a day at work to take the time to remove all your tools but it is much worse for you if you then lose a couple of days work because someone has stolen them from your van.”
Police advice to tradespeople through Operation Pioneer:
- Remove all tools from vehicles overnight
- Purchase a sign advising that no tools are left in your van overnight
- Park your vehicle in a garage if you have one
- Consider alarming the vehicle or fitting an internal security cage
- If you park on a drive, install security lights
- Visibly mark your machinery and tools
- If possible, park your vehicle close to a wall so that the doors
cannot be opened
- Report any suspicious activity to police immediately on 101