Cargo thefts doubled in 2019. Curtain slashing and extreme violence threaten drivers
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Cargo thefts from supply chains in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) more than doubled to 8,548 incidents in 2019 and involved product losses worth well over €137 million, according to the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA). Trucks continued to be the biggest target for cargo thieves, featuring in some 95% of all freight losses in the EMEA region. There is a burning need for secure parking lots.
The incident rate is the highest recorded in TAPA’s 23-year history as the leading Security Expert Network for everyone in the supply chain. In its Incident Information Service (IIS) Annual Report 2019, the Association also reveals average losses for major cargo crimes of €536,889 and an average daily loss in the EMEA region last year of €378,058. The intelligence data is based on cargo losses reported to TAPA’s IIS by international law enforcement agencies, insurers, manufacturers and logistics service providers.
Despite the high numbers, however, the Association continues to emphasise that it is still not receiving reports on the large majority of cargo crimes it believes are taking place across the region. In 2019, the number of incidents rose 114.7% to 8,548 versus 3,981 in 2018. Of these, only 39.1% of reports provided any financial value for the goods stolen, which accounted for a combined €137,991,499.
The top 10 countries regarding the number of thefts
The Association also recorded thefts from supply chains in more countries in the EMEA region than ever before – 48 in total compared to 35 in the previous year. Of this total, 10 countries accounted for 94.6% of the cargo crimes reported in 2019:
- Germany – 2,905, up 1,945% year-on-year
- France – 1,542 – up 817.8%
- United Kingdom – 1,199, down 53.6%
- Netherlands – 680, up 55.6%
- Sweden – 607, up 1,114%
- Spain – 388, up 53.9%
- Russia – 371, up 290.5%
- Italy – 159, up 174.1%
- Belgium – 120, up 118.1%
- South Africa – 118, up 195%
While the UK was the only country to report fewer incidents to TAPA’s incident database in 2019, the Association is aware that UK police have information on more than 4,000 cargo crimes across the country over the course of the year.
Higher incident rates were also recorded in many other countries in the region, including:
- Czech Republic – 73, up 421%
- Romania – 68, up 165.3%
- Denmark – 50, up 1,150%
- Hungary – 44, up 450%
- Poland – 40, up 344.4%
In terms of major losses, the top five countries – based on crimes reporting a value – were heavily influenced by a small number of very high-value thefts, notably in Albania and South Africa:
- South Africa – €19,334,171
- Netherlands – €15,875,292
- United Kingdom – €13,377,226
- Germany – €10,918,393
- Albania – €10,000,000
In the second tier of losses for crimes with a value of between €50,000 and €100,000, three of the 21 countries with incidents in this category accounted for the majority of the total £15.9m loss:
- Russia – €5,166,599
- Germany – €3,748, 444
- United Kingdom – €3,250,207
The biggest single loss reported to TAPA’s IIS in 2019 was the theft of €17,440,800 of jewellery/precious metals stolen from an Origin Facility in Gauteng province in South Africa. This was one of 19 crimes with 7- and 8-figure loss values. Overall, the 179 major cargo thefts last year – classified as incidents with a loss of €100,000 or more – represented a total loss of €96,103,152.
Trucks are the biggest target
Losses were recorded in 16 separate TAPA IIS product categories, with 12 sufferings combined losses of €1 million or far higher; phones, clothing and footwear, cosmetics and hygiene products, car parts, computers/laptops, cash, jewellery/ precious metals, furniture/household appliances, food and drink, metal, tobacco, sports equipment, and no-load (theft of a truck and/or trailer). Trucks continued to be the biggest target for cargo thieves, featuring in some 95% of all freight losses in the EMEA region.
The lack of secure truck parking remained one of the most significant contributors to these crimes, with drivers forced to park their vehicles at service stations, in laybys and on industrial estates while taking mandatory rest breaks.
TAPA’s Parking Security Requirements (PSR) industry standard is working to identify and encourage a network of truck parking places which meet its members’ requirements. Already, this has gained the support of Parking Place Operators in 10 countries across the region, with more in the pipeline.
In total, 4,602 of the crimes reported in 2019 occurred in unclassified parking places.
Vans at high risk
Smaller vans involved in last-mile deliveries also faced a high level of risk. During 2019, only 220 Theft from Facility crimes were recorded, reflecting the growing reluctance of cargo thieves to take the risk of targeting warehouses and distribution centres where security systems and on-site personnel increase their chances of getting caught.
Tarpaulin ripping is trending
Attacks on trucks continued to mostly involve so-called ‘curtain slashing’ as thieves cut the tarpaulin curtains of parked trucks to reach the goods inside.
Drivers also faced extreme violence in many of these attacks. At least two drivers lost their lives in cargo crimes in 2019 while others were threatened by violent offenders armed with guns, knives and other weapons.
Other modus operandi used by cargo thieves during the year included a significant number of fraudulent pickups by offenders using a fake driver and company identities, and cloned vehicles – often after being awarded loads through online freight exchanges for available transport capacity.
GPS jammers were once again used to block vehicle tracking signals in some truck hijackings, while the ‘blue light’ tactic to force drivers to stop their vehicles was another M.O. reported to the Association.