Van tool theft in the UK has risen by more than two-thirds in the past two years.
Figures obtained by the BBC from 30 of the 45 UK police forces show that there were 22,749 thefts in 2016-17 compared with 14,063 in 2014-15.
The surge in tool thefts from vans is being blamed on a skeleton key which is available online for £20.
While the skeleton keys have a legal use as a locksmith’s tool, they are increasingly being put to illegal use.
Stefan George, from the Master Locksmiths Association, believes that the skeleton keys should be less available to the public: “These are legitimate locksmiths tools, but they shouldn’t be available to everyone. We would welcome a restriction of their sale.”
In another method known as “peel and steal”, criminals press against the van using their body weight, before lifting open the top of the side door.
Spencer Hargreave, a builder from West Yorkshire, had his van broken into in December 2015. Two months later, his workmate, Paul Butterfield, found himself the victim of van tool theft.
Spencer estimates that his stolen tools and equipment are worth £1,500, while Paul believes his losses amount to hundreds of pounds.
The two now run a Van and Tool Theft Awareness Group on Facebook. They claim that police apathy is a big part of the problem.
Paul says that when he reported the theft from his van to the police he was given a crime number and then “forgotten about”.
Deputy Chief Constable Matt Jukes denies that the police are disinterested: “We investigate these cases and tailor our response to the circumstances and individual needs of the victim.”