POLICE in Essex have been the victims of 18 thefts from their vehicles in two years - including a £20,000 minibus stolen outside their HQ in Springfield.

A Freedom of Information request revealed the number of times Essex Police vehicles have been targeted by crooks in 2012 and 2013.

The combined value of the thefts is £26,691 with the highest coming in May last year when a 16-seater minibus was nicked outside the force’s home in Kingston Crescent.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “The keys had been taken from a secure office by unknown means.

“It was driven a total of three miles and then returned to the HQ.”

Suspects have not been identified in half of the 18 cases, including the minibus theft.

Items worth more than £3,000, including mobile phones, cameras and cardboard cut-outs of policemen, have also been stolen and not recovered.

The spokesman said: “Essex Police officers and staff are obviously very aware of the need to take steps to secure any property left unattended.

“The nature of policing does mean, though, that sometimes when responding to urgent incidents property security cannot be the main priority.

“While sensible crime prevention measures can help reduce the risks of theft they cannot eliminate them altogether and inevitably the force will occasionally become a victim itself.

“All these thefts will have been investigated.

“Those that currently remain undetected can be subject to further review if new evidence comes to light.”

The list of crimes includes two acts of theft by an Essex Police employee, who stole uniform and accessories worth £2,500, plus £200 in cash, from police premises in Clacton in June 2012.