Tradesmen are urged to security mark valuable tools to discourage thieves from selling them on.

The Safer New Forest Partnership advises tool owners to mark their property with a postcode and house number, which will also enable police to return stolen goods if recovered.

Security marking kits are available which mark valuables with a unique code. Van and truck drivers in particular are advised to property mark their work tools and secure their vehicles properly to deter thieves.

Anybody noticing people acting suspiciously near a vehicle should report it to the police on 101, or 999 in an emergency.

New Forest Chief Inspector Rachel Stokes said: “While local police teams are aware that tool thieves are operating and we are doing a lot to combat it, the owners of trade vans and trucks should security mark their property and keep it safe as possible.

“While it’s preferable to remove all valuable tools from a vehicle after work each day, sometimes lack of storage space or time makes it easier to leave them in situ.

“Thieves may ignore a sign saying: ‘No tools are stored in this van overnight’, so owners should protect their vehicles by investing in good quality security devices, such as immobilisers, alarms and deadlocks.”

Cllr Jill Cleary, New Forest District Councilportfolio holder for housing and communities said: These devices act as a great deterrent – when thieves see the extra security precautions, they may move on in search of an easier target rather than risk breaking into that van.”

The Safer New Forest Partnership also supports the Immobilise website where you can register property for free. The police then use this information to reunite stolen items with its owner.