COVID 'lockdowns' fail to stop €85 million of cargo thefts

Over EUR85 million of products were stolen from air, road, sea and rail freight supply chains in 46 countries in the Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region in the first half of 2020, even with national COVID-related lockdowns restricting people and vehicle movements, according to the latest data from the Transported Asset Protection Association’s (TAPA) Incident Information Service (IIS). While the activities of opportunist, ad hoc cargo thieves almost certainly reduced in the first six months of the year, TAPA says its 2020H1 intelligence indicates the strong presence of Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) across the EMEA region, and suggests many were ‘stealing to order’ given the number of losses of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other in-demand goods such as Food & Drink and Cosmetics & Hygiene products. Overall, for the first 182 days of 2020, TAPA’s IIS database recorded 3,278 cargo theft incidents with a total loss of EUR85,166,106 for the 2,154 or 65.7% of these crimes reporting a value.

Over EUR52 million of the 2020H1 loss total was attributed to 96 major incidents; classified as those crimes with individual losses of goods worth EUR100,000 or more. The average value of products stolen in these cases was EUR542,761. Nine TAPA IIS product categories impacted by major crimes produced seven-figure loss totals for the six months:

  • Computers/Laptops – EUR9,934,812
  • Pharmaceuticals – EUR5,940,859
  • No Load (Theft of truck and/or trailer) – EUR5,673,144
  • Tobacco – EUR5,411,545
  • Clothing & Footwear – EUR4,405,799
  • Phones – EUR4,186,877
  • Food & Drink – EUR2,987,254
  • Cosmetics & Hygiene – EUR2,620, 317
  • Sports Equipment – EUR1,144,805

The supply and demand nature of the black market for stolen goods prompted a noticeable spate of thefts of PPE equipment as offenders looked to cash in on one of the most sought-after products to help fight the outbreak of the coronavirus.

In the biggest single loss of PPE, two million face masks and other PPE equipment valued at EUR5,000,000 were stolen from an Origin Facility warehouse in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain in April. Other similar thefts included:

  • Millions of respiratory masks stolen from an aviation facility in Kenya on 20 March
  • 680,000 face masks stolen in the Czech Republic on 17 March
  • 500,000 face masks taken from a truck in France on 7 May
  • 200,000 face masks stolen from a truck at a motorway service area in Spain on 8 May
  • 50,000 medical suits taken from a shipping warehouse in Turkey on 7 April
  • 50,000 respirators from a Destination Facility in Cologne, Germany, on 16 March
  • A shipment of hand sanitiser from a truck at a MSA in Odsmalsbron in Sweden on 6 April
  • Boxes of facemasks taken from a facility in Moscow on 19 March
  • Protective medical gowns and gloves from a warehouse in Bergen, Norway, on 20 March
  • Protective face masks from a vehicle in Coulounieix-Chamiers in France on 18 March

Similar demand for another type of product in short supply in supermarkets and shops during the lockdown was also reflected in the theft of 130,000 toilet rolls from trailers in Walsall in the United Kingdom on 20 March. Thorsten Neumann, President & CEO of TAPA EMEA, said the latest figures have quickly dispelled any hopes that national lockdowns during the height of the pandemic would eradicate cargo losses. “It clearly takes more than a global pandemic to stop the activities of Organised Crime Groups.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests an increase in cases of ‘stealing to order’ for goods in high demand during the early months of the pandemic. Our IIS database recorded a higher than usual number of incidents in which, for example, multiple vehicles in parking locations had their tarpaulin curtains slashed by thieves looking for products but no goods were taken in the attacks. This indicates offenders had very specific types of products in mind – and, almost certainly, black market customers already lined up to buy the goods,” he added.

The 10 highest value incidents reported to TAPA EMEA involved seven-figure financial losses:

  • EUR8,788,000 – a violent theft of computers/laptops from a truck in Nuneaton, UK, on 9 March
  • EUR5,000,000 – the theft of PPE equipment in Spain on 6 April
  • EUR5,000,000 – 50 tractor units stolen from a transport company by a rival operator. Police intercepted seven of the vehicles, using false number plates, on 7 April as they were being driven from Murcia to Madrid to be sold
  • EUR3,295,500 – the theft of an HGV semi-trailer and its load of tobacco from a location in Daventry in the UK East Midlands on 27 May
  • EUR3,000,000 – On 14 March, offenders used forged documentation to arrange the deceptive pick-up of a shipment of phones from an aviation facility in Amsterdam
  • EUR2,000,000 – Six offenders in two cars blocked a road in Nantes, western France, to forcibly stop and hijack a truck carrying tobacco and cigarettes on 7 June
  • EUR1,318,200 – Thieves forced their way into a haulage yard in Haydock in the North West region of the UK on 18 January before stealing a trailer loaded with alcohol products
  • EUR1,144,805 – Sporting goods stolen from a warehouse in Grimsby, UK, on 2 April
  • EUR1,098,500 – Clothing and footwear stolen from a facility in Lincolnshire, UK, on 30 March
  • EUR1,033,877 – on 10 April, a truck carrying a shipment of phones from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was hijacked while en route to a warehouse facility

The United Kingdom recorded the highest number of major cargo losses in the TAPA IIS database in this reporting period with 56 or 63.6% of all crimes with a value of EUR100,000 or more. These produced a total loss of EUR27,658,653 or an average of EUR493,905.

This is largely due to the high level of support and intelligence TAPA receives from UK law enforcement agencies (LEAs) as opposed to indicating the UK crime rate is significantly higher than in other countries in EMEA. A further 10 major incidents took place in Germany, with overall total and average figures of EUR2,470,195 and EUR247,020 respectively. France recorded 7 major losses totalling EUR3,568,000 or an average of EUR509,714, while the 6 major losses in the Netherlands reported corresponding figures of EUR4,209,178 or an average of EUR701,530.

TAPA also receives regular crime intelligence from LEAs in these countries too. Outside of the EUR1m-plus thefts, the next 10 highest loss incidents reported to TAPA’s IIS between 1 January-30 June were:

  • EUR675,054 – Computers/laptops stolen from a truck in Milton Keynes in the UK on 2 June
  • EUR659,100 – Thieves forced open a vehicle parked in Burghclere, Hampshire, in the UK, and stole a shipment of power tools on 19 March
  • EUR615,160 – The theft of motorcycles from a Services 3rd Party Facility in Clifton Upon Dunsmore in the UK county of Warwickshire on 13 June
  • EUR549,250 – A loss of clothing and footwear products from a truck at a motorway service area (MSA) in Peterborough in eastern England on 8 January
  • EUR549,250 – The theft of cosmetics and hygiene products from a vehicle at a MSA in Westerham in Kent, UK, on 30 January
  • EUR549,250 – Criminals in the UK used bogus company information to order and subsequently steal a trailer load of metal from an overseas supplier in June
  • EUR530,000 – 4,400 smartwatches stolen from an Aviation Transportation Facility in Schiphol in the Netherlands in May
  • EUR524,457- The hijacking of a truck loaded with soap and hand sanitiser products in Midrand in South Africa’s Gauteng province on 26 May
  • EUR521,787 – Miscellaneous products stolen from a truck parked at business premises in Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, UK, on 8 February
  • EUR439,400 – A theft of machinery and parts from a lorry parked at a motorway services in Northamptonshire, UK, on 21 January

Five of the 46 countries recording cargo theft incidents in 2020H1 accounted for 87% of losses reported to TAPA’s IIS: (1) United Kingdom – 1,670 incidents or 50.9% of the half-year total, (2) Germany – 827 or 25.2%, (3) Netherlands – 170 or 5.1%, (4) Spain – 129 or 3.9%, and (5) Russia – 63 or 1.9%.

Seven further countries reported double-digit losses: Italy 52 incidents, Denmark 51, South Africa 38, Romania 35, Belgium 29, Hungary 24, and Czech Republic 19. TAPA also continued to see more reporting of cargo crimes in Africa, with incidents recorded in 19 nations: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Cote d’lvoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In the UK, the 88.2% of crimes giving a value produced a total loss of EUR53,215,364.

The included 176 crimes involving thefts of Tobacco products, 146 losses of Food & Drink shipments, 131 thefts of trucks/trailers with no loads, and 72 crimes targeting clothing and footwear goods. In most cases, crimes involved Theft from Vehicle incidents, 83.4% of the UK total, and 51.1% of these occurred in unclassified or unsecured parking places. Germany recorded the second highest incident rate in the IIS database in EMEA in the first six months of 2020.

Its 827 crimes resulted in a combined loss value of EUR5,047,535 – but this figure is based only on the 33.6% of incidents sharing financial data. The TAPA IIS categories recording the highest number of losses were clothing and footwear, tools/building materials, furniture/household appliances, and food and drink. Once again, goods in supply chains were most at risk when trucks parked in unsecured parking places, the location stated in 534 or 64.6% of crime reports.

Overall, TAPA recorded losses in 19 IIS product categories over the six months. Those with 100 incidents or more were (1) Food & Drink – 238 or 7.2% of the six-month total, (2) Tobacco – 192 or 5.8%, (3) No Load (Theft of truck and/or trailer) – 174 or 5.3%, (4) Clothing & Footwear – 118 or 3.5% and (5) Furniture/Household Appliances – 106 or 3.2%. Across all 46 countries recording cargo crimes, Theft from Vehicle remained the most recorded type of incident with 2,179 cases.

TAPA was notified of only 122 Theft from Facility crimes.

1,605 or 48.9% of freight thefts involved thieves targeting trucks in unclassified or unsecured parking locations. Other main types of locations to see criminal attacks were Destination Facility (362 incidents), En Route (197) and Services 3rd Party Facility (169). “One of the outcomes of the COVID outbreak has been the global focus on supply chain resilience.

The level of cargo crime during the lockdown will also focus the minds of companies to make their operations more secure, and TAPA is best-placed to help them with this through our highly-respected industry standards, training and incident intelligence programmes to support risk management and loss prevention.

Although TAPA has very important intelligence sharing partnerships with law enforcement agencies in some of the major European countries, the overall percentage of all cargo crime reporting to our IIS database across the entire EMEA region remains only a small percentage of what we believe to be the true figure, which we estimate runs into billions of euros of losses a year.

We actively encourage more police forces to work with us because incident intelligence is the most effective tool in our industry’s programme to significantly reduce cargo thefts from supply chains,” Thorsten Neumann said.

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