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Police keen to reunite hundreds of stolen tools with rightful owners after van break-ins



Hertfordshire Constabulary is keen to reunite more than 600 power tools with their rightful owners after over £50,000 worth of tools were seized following a proactive operation undertaken by the force’s Hatfield based Specialist Investigation Team.

Police keen to reunite hundreds of stolen tools with rightful owners after van break-ins


In recent months, the county has experienced a rise in van breaks, and power tools are being stolen from vehicles as a result. In comparison to last year, theft from motor vehicle offences in Hertfordshire increased by 22 per cent.


To tackle the problem, the force launched Operation Enfile which aims to drive down these offences and identify the offenders responsible to put a permanent stop to the crimes.


In a proactive, covert drive in Broxbourne on June 18, where five further vehicles were broken into that weekend, police investigations and intelligence led officers to a storage unit in the Manor Park area in the London Borough of Newnham. Inside the unit they discovered hundreds of power tools which are believed to have been stolen as part of the crime series.


The operation also resulted in the arrest of four men in connection with the crimes on suspicion of theft from motor vehicle. Those arrested include a 21-year-old man from Oxford, a 50-year-old man from Hackney and a 15-year-old boy from Hackney. They have been released pending further investigations.


Thirty-two-year old John Maughan was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steal. He was charged with the offence on June 18 and was remanded into police custody. He appeared at Hatfield Remand Court on June 19 and was released on bail. He is next due to appear at St Albans Crown Court on July 21.


Detective Inspector Anna Wright, from the Specialist Investigation Team which is based at Hatfield Police Station, said: “Over the past year we have seen an unacceptable rise in thefts from vans and are determined to drive these offences down and bring those responsible to justice.


“After my team’s on-going investigations we were delighted to make the arrests last week and to seize what we believe to be hundreds of stolen items. We are now working on the task of reuniting the suspected stolen items with their rightful owners.


“If you have had a van broken into and tools stolen in the past year, and know you have distinguishing marks on the items or serial numbers, please do contact us on 01707 638192.


“I would urge van owners who carry tools around in their vehicles to get them security marked. Engraving or marking your tools makes them less attractive as they are harder for thieves to sell on. It is also easier to return them to their rightful owners if they are ever stolen and later recovered by police as we have done in this instance.


“In addition to security marking tools, I would also would urge van owners to consider the crime prevention advice below to protect themselves from also becoming a victim of this crime.”


Have you had tools stolen from your van?
As part of Operation Enfile the investigative team working on the drive is hoping to reunite some of the stolen power tools with their rightful owners. Officers have gone through the items seized and are asking anyone who has had powers tools stolen from them in the past year, and if they know they have any distinguishing marks or serial numbers on them, to please contact us soon as possible. The Specialist Investigation Team can be reached on 01707 638192.


Get your tools security marked for free
Safer Neighbourhood Teams across the county now have tool engraving equipment to help tackle the rise in tool thefts. Officers are holding tool marking events in their local areas and you can contact your team directly by visiting the Safer Neighbourhood Team Pages on the Constabulary’s website Alternatively you could even arrange to pop down to the police station where your team is based to have your tools security marked while you wait. Just contact your local team to arrange it.


Once the most of the obviously marked tools have been claimed by their rightful owners, the rest of the seized items will be listed on  The website was instigated by Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd and is operated by Hertfordshire Constabulary. It features photos of found and recovered items, as well as a facility for people to report lost property.


The Constabulary takes temporary possession of property which is suspected to have been stolen, but the force is sometimes unable to locate its true owner.  Likewise, often the force is made aware of property which has been found in Hertfordshire, but the owner is unknown. Users of the website can record items that they have lost or found and search the website to see if Hertfordshire Constabulary is holding their stolen or lost property.


Keeping your van and tools safe
Vans are often targeted by thieves for their tools. Here are a few simple tips the Constabulary would recommend to help secure your van and its contents:

  • It might sound obvious, but make sure you lock the doors and shut the windows whenever you leave your van unattended. 
  • Never leave any valuables visible - keep ALL possessions out of sight. Even if you know that there is nothing valuable in your jacket pocket or file left on the seat, a thief may try their luck.
  • Remove tools from your van when left over night
  • If removal of tools is not possible, fit a tool safe and ensure it is fully secured with good quality locks.
  • Consider parking your van close to a hedge or wall in order to restrict access for anyone trying to get inside.
  • Engrave or mark tools and their boxes with your postcode and house number.
  • Fit additional locks external locks to van doors.
  • Use an approved steering lock or gear clamps, and remember to set your immobiliser and alarm if you have one.
  • Fit a dual band tracking device that works on VHF/UHF and GPS to ensure that one tracking system is still functioning if criminals use GPS blocking techniques to avoid detection. Purchase devices to ‘Thatcham’ and ‘SBD’ approval to combat this type of vehicle theft, as vehicles equipped with a tracking device are often promptly recovered.
  • Use a “Pedal Box Guard” to encase the pedals when the vehicle is not in use.
  • Fit an on-board diagnostic (OBD) safe device, a secure lockable device that fits over the vehicle’s OBD port, inside the cabin, to prevent additional keys being coded.
  • Do not buy tools offered to you for sale in unusual circumstances, such as at a pub. It is likely they will be stolen and this will help to continue the cycle of tool thefts.
  • We recommend products that are “Sold Secure”, see their website for details: or “Secured By Design”, see their website:
  • Hertfordshire residents can get a 10 per cent discount on vehicle security products through