LOCKDOWN INSPIRES ORGANISED CRIME GROUPS WITH €85 MILLION OF PRODUCTS STOLEN IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2020

The activities of cargo thieves in Europe, the Middle East & Africa (EMEA) in the first half of 2020 were most certainly curtailed by the COVID-19 lockdowns across the region but Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) still identified ways to steal products worth tens of millions of euros from supply chains, including high value shipments of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Data shared by law enforcement agencies with TAPA’s Incident Information Service (IIS) for the first six months of the year was also interrupted as police agencies diverted resources to support national lockdown protocols. Consequently, TAPA is yet to receive full cargo theft intelligence for this period from several of the known national hotspots for freight crime in the region.

Nonetheless, any hopes that restrictions on the movements of people and vehicles during the height of the pandemic would virtually eradicate cargo losses were quickly dispelled. Initial analysis of the January-June incident data supports the view that many small-time, opportunist cargo thieves may well have opted to ‘stay home’ to avoid the higher level of scrutiny of public movements but for the more strategic OCG operations, this was not only a time of ‘business as usual’ but also one which presented new and lucrative opportunities.

For the first 182 days of 2020, TAPA’s IIS database has so far recorded 3,278 cargo theft incidents with a total loss of €85,166,106 for the 2,154 or 65.7% of these crimes reporting a value.

Over €52 million of this total was attributed to the 96 major incidents, those with individual losses of goods worth €100,000 or more. The average value of products stolen in these cases was €542,761.

Nine TAPA IIS product categories impacted by major crimes produced seven-figure loss totals for the six months:

·        Computers/Laptops - €9,934,812

·        Pharmaceuticals - €5,940,859

·        No Load (Theft of truck and/or trailer) - €5,673,144

·        Tobacco - €5,411,545

·        Clothing & Footwear - €4,405,799

·        Phones - €4,186,877

·        Food & Drink - €2,987,254

·        Cosmetics & Hygiene - €2,620, 317

·        Sports Equipment - €1,144,805

The 10 highest value incidents all involved seven-figure financial losses:

·        €8,788,000 – on 9 March, thieves conducted a violent attack on a truck carrying computers/laptops shortly after it left a Services 3rd Party Facility in Nuneaton in Warwickshire, UK  

·        €5,000,000 – on 6 April, two million face masks and other PPE equipment was taken from an Origin Facility warehouse in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. All the products were removed from their protective plastic boxes by the thieves to hide the origin of the theft

·        €5,000,000 – The theft of 50 tractor units from a transport company by a rival operator. Police intercepted seven of the vehicles on 7 April as they were being driven from Murcia to Madrid to be sold. The thieves had replaced the original Bulgarian licence plates with cloned Spanish plates  

·        €3,295,500 – Thieves stole an unattended HGV semi-trailer and its load of tobacco from a location in Daventry in the East Midlands region of the UK on 27 May 

·        €3,000,000 – On 14 March, offenders used forged documentation to facilitate the deceptive pick-up of a shipment of phones from an Aviation Transportation Facility at Amsterdam Schiphol

·        €2,000,000 – Six offenders in two cars blocked a road in Nantes, western France, to forcibly stop and hijack a truck carrying tobacco and cigarettes shortly after it left a warehouse in the area on 7 June 

·        €1,318,200 – Thieves used a tractor unit to force 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

·        €1,144,805 – The theft of stock from a sporting goods warehouse in Grimsby, Lincolnshire in the UK, on 2 April 

·        €1,098,500 – A second Theft from Facility reported in Grimsby on 30 March and the theft of clothing and footwear products, believed to have been conducted over a four-day period by thieves using an HGV and trailer

·        €1,033,877 – 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 this reporting period with 56 or 63.6% of all crimes with a value of €100,000 or more. These produced a total loss of €27,658,653 or an average of €493,905. A further 10 took place in Germany, with an overall total and average of €2,470,195 and €247,020 respectively. France recorded 7 major losses totalling €3,568,000 or an average of €509,714, while the 6 major losses in the Netherlands reported corresponding figures of €4,209,178 or an average of €701,530.

 

Outside of the €1m-plus losses, the next 10 highest major cargo thefts reported to TAPA’s IIS in the half-year were:

·        €675,054 – Computers/laptops stolen from a truck in Milton Keynes in the UK on 2 June after thieves cut through the vehicle’s tarpaulin curtain   

·        €659,100 – Thieves forced open the rear doors of a vehicle parked at a location in Burghclere, Hampshire, in the UK, and stole a shipment of power tools on 19 March

·        €615,160 – The theft of motorcycles from a Services 3rd Party Facility in Clifton Upon Dunsmore in the UK county of Warwickshire on 13 June

·        €549,250 – Another curtain-cutting crime, this loss saw a cargo of clothing and footwear products taken from a truck in an unclassified parking location at a motorway service area (MSA) in Peterborough in eastern England on 8 January

·        €549,250 – In a similar type of crime, offenders took cosmetics and hygiene products from a vehicle at a MSA in Westerham in Kent, UK, on 30 January

·        €549,250 – In this case of Fraud, criminals in the UK used bogus company information to order a trailer load of metal from an overseas supplier in June  

·        €530,000 – An employee working in an Aviation Transportation Facility in Schiphol in the Netherlands was arrested on 16 May in connection with the theft of 4,400 smartwatches

·        €524,457- A truck loaded with soap and sanitiser was hijacked while en route in Midrand in South Africa’s Gauteng province on 26 May. Eight suspects were later arrested in connection with the crime and some of the load was recovered

·        €521,787 – Thieves entered the secure yard of a business in Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, UK, on 8 February and stole a vehicle loaded with miscellaneous products

·        €439,400 – A second major crime recorded at a motorway services in Peterborough, UK, this incident on 21 January involved the theft of machinery and parts after the offenders cut the tarpaulin side of the vehicle                         

PPE in high demand during early months of pandemic

The supply and demand nature of the black market for stolen goods also prompted a spate of thefts of Personal Protective Equipment as offenders looked to cash in one of the most sought-after products to help fight the outbreak of the coronavirus. In addition to the €5m theft of face masks previously highlighted in Spain, TAPA’s IIS was also notified of cases involving:

·        Millions of respiratory masks stolen from an Aviation Transportation Facility in Kenya on 20 March

·        680,000 face masks from an unknown location in the Czech Republic on 17 March

·        500,000 face masks taken from a truck in France as it headed to towns across the Spanish border on 7 May

·        200,000 face masks disappeared from a truck parked at a motorway service area in Spain on 8 May

·        50,000 medical suits were 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 were taken from an Authorised 3rd Party Facility in Moscow on 19 March

·        Protective medical gowns and gloves from an Authorised 3rd Party Facility in Bergen, Norway, on 20 March

·        Protective face masks from a vehicle in Coulounieix-Chamiers in France on 18 March

Demand for another highly-publicised type of product 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.

Anecdotal evidence may also suggest an increase in cases of ‘stealing to order’ for goods in such high demand during the early months of the pandemic. TAPA recorded a higher than usual number of incidents in which multiple vehicles in parking locations had their tarpaulin curtains slashed but no goods were taken in the attacks, indicating the offenders had very specific types of products in mind – and, probably, black market customers already lined up to buy the goods.

Losses reported to TAPA EMEA in 46 countries     

Five countries accounted for 87% of all cargo thefts recorded by TAPA’s IIS in this six-month period:

·        United Kingdom – 1,670 incidents or 50.9% of the half-year total, as TAPA saw an immediate benefit from its new data sharing agreement with NaVCIS Freight, the UK law enforcement agency

·        Germany – 827 or 25.2%

·        Netherlands – 170 or 5.1%

·        Spain – 129 or 3.9%

·        Russia – 63 or 1.9%

Seven further countries reported double-digit losses in this reporting period:

·        Italy – 52 incidents

·        Denmark – 51

·        South Africa - 38

·        Romania - 35

·        Belgium – 29

·        Hungary - 24

·        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, Côte d’lvoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

UNITED KINGDOM

In the UK, the 88.2% of the 1,670 recorded crimes gave a value, producing a total loss of €53,215,364 or an average for all incidents with a value of €36,102.

Top 10 most stolen types of products = 96.6%

·        Unspecified – 608 (36.4%)

·        Miscellaneous – 350 (20.9%)

·        Tobacco – 176 (10.5%)

·        Food & Drink – 146 (8.7%)

·        No Load (Theft of truck and/or trailer) – 131 (7.8%)

·        Clothing & Footwear – 72 (4.3%)

·        Furniture/Household Appliances – 49 (2.9%)

·        Cosmetics & Hygiene – 38 (2.2%)

·        Car Parts – 34 (2.0%)

·        Computers/Laptops – 16 (0.9%)

 

Top 5 types of incident = 96.8%

 

·        Theft from Vehicle – 1,394 (83.4%)

·        Theft of Vehicle – 99 (5.9%)

·        Truck Theft – 50 (2.9%)

·        Theft of Trailer – 50 (2.9%)

·        Theft from Facility – 29 (1.7%)

 

Top 5 types of location = 96.6%

 

·        Unclassified Parking Location – 854 (51.1%)

·        Unknown – 341 (20.4%)

·        Destination Facility – 239 (14.3%)

·        En Route – 134 (8.0%)

·        Services 3rd Party Facility – 48 (2.8%)

 

Top 5 types of M.O. = 99%

 

·        Intrusion – 1,340 (80.2%)

·        Unknown – 151 (9.0%)

·        Theft from Moving Vehicle – 74 (4.4%)

·        Violent & Threat with Violence – 72 (4.3%)

·        Deception Other – 20 (1.1%)

 

GERMANY

Germany recorded the second highest incident rate in the IIS database in the first six months of 2020 with 827 crimes producing a total loss value of €5,047,535, based on the 33.6% of reports providing financial data.

 

Top 10 most stolen types of products = 94.9%

·        Unspecified – 427 (51.7%)

·        Miscellaneous – 202 (24.5%)

·        Clothing & Footwear – 29 (3.5%)

·        Tools/Building Materials – 28 (3.4%)

·        Furniture/Household Appliances – 24 (2.9%)

·        Food & Drink – 24 (2.9%)

·        No Load (Theft of truck and/or trailer) – 15 (1.8%)

·        Cosmetics & Hygiene – 13 (1.6%)

·        Tyres – 11 (1.3%)

·        Car Parts – 11 (1.3%)

 

Top 5 types of incident = 96.5%

 

·        Theft from Vehicle – 534 (64.6%)

·        Theft – 202 (24.5%)

·        Theft from Facility – 32 (3.9%)

·        Theft of Trailer – 16 (1.9%)

·        Theft of Vehicle – 13 (1.6%)

 

Top 5 types of location = 99.4%

 

·        Unclassified Parking Location – 534 (64.6%)

·        Unknown – 220 (26.6%)

·        Destination Facility – 30 (3.6%)

·        Services 3rd Party Facility – 24 (2.9%)

·        Origin Facility – 14 (1.7%)

 

Top 5 types of M.O. = 100%

 

·        Unknown – 653 (78.9%)

·        Intrusion 165 (19.9%)

·        Violent & Threat with Violence – 3 (0.4%)

·        Theft from Moving Vehicle – 3 (0.4%)

·        Internal – 3 (0.4%)

Overall, TAPA recorded losses in 19 IIS product categories over the six months. Categories with 100 incidents or more were:

 

·        Food & Drink – 238 or 7.2% of the six-month total

·        Tobacco – 192 or 5.8%

·        No Load (Theft of truck and/or trailer) – 174 or 5.3%

·        Clothing & Footwear – 118 or 3.5%

·        Furniture/Household Appliances – 106 or 3.2%

 

Theft from Vehicle remained the most recorded type of incident with 2,179 crimes representing 66.4% of the half-year total, ahead of the 413 cases of Theft, 145 crimes involving Theft of Vehicle, and 122 incidents of Theft from Facility. TAPA’s IIS also recorded 84 cases of Fraud, the majority of which were in Russia.

 

In 1,605 or 48.9% of crimes reported to the Association, the location of incidents was recorded as Unclassified Parking Location. High incident rates were also seen for:

 

·        Destination Facility – 362 or 11%

·        En Route – 197 or 6%

·        Services 3rd Party Facility – 169 or 5.1%

 

TAPA also recorded several incidents involving migrants onboard trucks and freight trains, as well as arrests of drivers implicated in people trafficking.

 

TAPA members can see the full half-year data and conduct their own analysis using the password-protected IIS database.