Cargo crime costs freight transport industry almost £500m a year, warn police

In 2022 there were 5,086 notifications of theft from trucks over 7.5 tonnes GVW in the UK with losses valued at £66m – but the true net cost could be seven times that figure or over £460m once all the hidden costs such as damage to reputations and vehicles are taken into account, according to Mike Dawber, field intelligence officer at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS).

Speaking at an Action Counters Terrorism corporate event for the road transport industry held on October 27 at the Met Police’s New Scotland Yard headquarters, Dawber went on to explain the tactics used by organised crime gangs to target and steal high value goods from trucks – even while they are on the move.

One gang from West Yorkshire specialised in stealing from trailers and making fictious collections of fully loaded trailers while another from Essex would commit crimes typically on weekday nights across the South East.

A common technique used by gangs is jump-up theft, where thieves follow supermarket trucks and steal cigarettes and tobacco from the rear doors when the vehicle is stopped in traffic or at a delivery.

The most audacious crimes, which came to Dawber’s initially disbelieving attention in 2020, are known as Romanian roll overs. Here several cars or vans will box in a truck driving on a motorway or dual carriageway while a thief balanced on the bonnet of a following car will angle grind away the rear door locks, climb into the trailer and pass goods back to the car. There were six such incidents in 2022 which Dawber described as “like something out of James Bond”.

Organised crime gangs do not need to strike it lucky or rely on tip offs to target trucks carrying high value goods, he pointed out.

“These gangs are not opportunists,” he said. “They understand the supply chain because they are often from a freight background.

“They know which hauliers carry what goods and where drivers take their rest breaks.”

Typical patterns identified by thieves include Scotch whisky being trunked to Avonmouth for export where drivers will often take their breaks on the M6 southbound motorway services, high tech gadgets imported through the southern container ports will be trunked north on the M1 and A14 while tyres imported through Felixstowe will follow a similar route to DCs in the Midlands. Foreign trucks northbound on Mondays and Tuesdays will often be full of high value imported goods.

“There are also seasonal trends, with garden products and summer fashion garments being stolen in April and May and pallets of toys such as Lego stolen in September and October,” said Dawber. “Games consoles and alcohol are also being shipped at this time of year.”

Theft by slashing curtains had been thought to be largely opportunist, but this is “so wide of the mark” he went on. In what are termed side-by-side thefts, an 18-tonne curtainsider will pull alongside the target trailer in a lorry park and a gang inside the truck will quickly slash the curtains and transfer the goods before anyone realises what is happening. £2m of fashion goods were stolen in this way from Watford Gap services in August last year.

“Thieves don’t hold up banks with sawn-off shotguns any more,” said Dawber. “Cargo theft is low risk and high reward and the penalties for theft from motor vehicles are much lower than for robbery.”
The good news is that hijacking vehicles with threats or actual violence to drivers is relatively rare, with only 31 recorded incidents in 2022.

NaVCIS is entirely funded by the road freight transport industry and Dawber urged operators to become sponsors to ensure the unit – which almost closed due to lack of support in 2021 – keeps going. The unit sends out regular bulletins warning of potential threats to sponsors and has developed an app which is free to download to help operators and drivers reduce the risk of being targeted.

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The post Cargo crime costs freight transport industry almost £500m a year, warn police appeared first on Motor Transport.

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