THIEVES broke into a family home, stole keys and then drove off with a young electrician’s van.

The gang were caught on CCTV in Portslade as they made off with the van containing thousands of pounds worth of tools.

Jill Brewster said it has left her “horrified” that the van belonging to her 19-year-old son was taken.

She said he had saved up his own money to pay for the vehicle after recently qualifying as an electrician and said an insurance payout will not cover the whole cost of everything lost.

The crime happened after figures showed there has been a 76 per cent rise in vehicle thefts in Sussex in the past five years.

RAC Insurance says the rise is part of a “disturbing” picture of crime across the country.

Ms Brewster said: “It was horrific. The thieves walked through my home in the middle of the night while we were asleep upstairs.

“They walked past my handbag and purse and looked for keys. It was the van they wanted.

“He worked with Mears for a few years and saved his money so he could buy his own van. He wanted to go out on his own and do his own thing. When he got it, he was like a five-year-old on Christmas day again.

“But it was gone in a heartbeat.”

Ms Brewster said the thieves also took the keys to her own vehicle and her husbands, leaving both vehicles insecure.

She said: “We are getting back to normal, but it did leave us feeling uncomfortable. What if we had been woken up and come downstairs?”

Her son’s colleague Mike Shaw, who runs Kingsway Electrical, set up an online fundraising page where trade workers have donated. Ms Brewster said the family have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity.

Figures from the RAC show Sussex Police dealt with 2,171 stolen vehicle reports in 2018 to 2019, up from 1,231 cases seen in 2014 to 2015 .

RAC Insurance spokesman Simon Williams said the figures are not as high as in the 1990s, but said: “These figures paint a rather disturbing picture.

“Vehicle thefts are on the rise almost everywhere, and in some parts of the country numbers are rocketing.”

Sussex Police said they are looking to better understand the rise in vehicle crime nationally, and said many

vehicles like mopeds are easier to target without immobilisers.

The force said it does take vehicle thefts seriously, and said a rise in funding from the council tax precept has boosted the rural crime team, while tactical enforcement teams look to crack organised criminals stealing vehicles.

Officers urge people to secure their vehicles, even if leaving them for a short time, and to leave vehicles in well-lit areas covered by CCTV.

Residents should also be vigilant by hiding keys at home and keeping doors and windows locked.

To donate to support Ms Brewster’s son visit gofundme.com/f/get-withers-back-to-work