TRADESMEN in Hampshire are being increasingly targeted by thieves with more than £22,000 of tools stolen in January alone.

Expensive equipment has been snatched from vans in a spate of 16 incidents in Southampton, Romsey, Eastleigh and the New Forest, which police are linking.

Of the 16 crimes reported to police between December 30 and January 22, five were in Totton, five in the Coxford area of Southampton, two were in West End, one in Eastleigh and one in New Milton. Eastleigh and Romsey Chief Inspector Andy Houghton said: “Most of the vans have been broken into after normal working hours and I’d stress it’s particularly important that people don’t leave valuable items in vans overnight as this is when most of the crimes have occurred.

“It only takes a moment for thieves to break into a van.

Locking the van will help stop opportunists but determined thieves who are targeting vans come equipped and will get in quickly and be away with your expensive tools or other valuables in moments.

“I’d urge all van drivers, when at all possible, to remove any tools from their van when it’s not in use as it could save them a lot of hassle and possibly from being out of pocket.”

Anyone who has any information can contact the Vehicle Crime Unit at Lyndhurst police ptation on 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.