The United Kingdom is seen to be one of the world’s biggest ‘hotspots’ for cargo thefts but while incident rates are undeniably high, the statistics are mostly reflective of the close collaboration between the country’s law enforcement agencies and industry, as well as the high level of incident and intelligence reporting being collated to help track down offenders and prevent future crimes from occurring.

To many in the world of freight crime intelligence gathering, the UK provides a benchmark for other countries to follow. In simple terms, its crime rate is arguably no higher than for other major nations around the world, it is just better at recording those crimes and more willing to share intelligence with partners equally determined to protect their supply chains and their staff in the frontlines of those operations.


For many years, the catalyst of all that is best about UK cargo theft intelligence and prevention has been NaVCIS, the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service based at the College of Policing near Coventry. In June, to give its members access to the best possible level of cargo crime incident data for the UK, TAPA EMEA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NaVCIS for the sharing of information on Freight Crime in the UK, which will be available via the Association’s Incident Information Service (IIS) database. Vigilant spoke to DCI Brett Mallon, Head of Unit at NaVCIS to find out more… 


Tell us more about NaVCIS?


The core team at NaVCIS looks at vehicle finance theft and fraud, and the theft of plant and agricultural machinery, and leisure vehicles. NaVCIS Freight is a National Police Unit and was formed upon the opening of NaVCIS. Until 2012, we ran the Truckpol initiative to tackle HGV-related crime in the UK until it was forced to close due to a lack of funding. In 2016, NaVCIS Freight was resurrected following an approach from insurers Beazley Group to continue its work in relation to UK HGV freight crime. NaVCIS Freight’s current terms of reference are LGV/HGV-related freight crime involving vehicles over 7.5 tonnes.


NaVCIS Freight engages with Police and LEA, Cargo Insurers, Cargo Surveyors, Loss Adjustors, Hauliers, Logistics Companies, Motorway Service Areas (MSAs), Truckstops and Trade Associations, such as the Road Haulage Association (RHA), the British International Freight Association (BIFA), and TAPA to prevent and detect crime.


Give us an insight into how NaVCIS engages with the transport and logistics sector?


NaVCIS offers the transport and logistics industry both proactive and reactive advice and solutions in relation to HGV freight crime. This includes our bi-weekly Freight Bulletin for liaison with industry, which includes details of any arrests/prosecutions, national HGV and cargo crime trends as well as hotspot locations for HGV crime. NaVCIS also produces monthly and quarterly Cargo Crime Analysis Reports which go to Industry and the Police.


We are also currently undertaking a cargo crime prevention and liaison programme with Motorway Service Areas to prevent, detect, disrupt, deter, and dismantle offences of cargo crime.


For more information on how to receive the NaVCIS Freight publications, please contact freight@(*** please remove ***)navcis.pnn.police.uk


How can industry better support NaVCIS?


We are very grateful for the support we already receive from our Freight stakeholders, notably Beazley Group, TT Club Insurance, RHA, BIFA, and TAPA. Operationally, the work that NaVCIS Freight is undertaking to combat freight crime is entirely dependent on the financial support of industry. NaVCIS does not receive any Home Office funding and without Industry led funding, the work we do would cease to exist. We also need industry to provide details of any incidents or intelligence to NaVCIS to enhance the national intelligence picture.


Can you share some statistics with us on the level of UK cargo crimes?


NaVCIS manages a UK National HGV, Freight & Cargo Crime Database which details incidents coming from several sources including Police & industry. This piece of work is unique in that NaVCIS are the only Police Unit in the UK with access to this information. The theft of cargo in the UK has been going on since the 1950s and 1960s, however no one has accurately mapped the threat to the UK economy from HGV, Freight & Cargo Crime. NaVCIS has invested heavily in being able to provide an overview of UK related cargo crime:


  • In 2017, NaVCIS received 1,443 notifications of HGV, Freight and Cargo crimes with a combined cost price loss value of £63.9 million
  • In 2018, we received 2,969 notifications with a loss value of £90.7 million
  • In 2019, this rose again to 4,364 and £116.3 million respectively
  • So far, in 2020, NaVCIS has recorded 2,239 notifications of crimes with a loss value of £50.5 million.


It’s important to emphasise that these figures do not necessarily reflect an increase in offences but moreover an improving level of reporting which is helping us to more effectively map the threat of cargo crime in the UK. It will take several years of consistent figures before analysis will identify baseline figures. Also, the loss values recorded by NaVCIS are in cost price rather than retail values, which studies indicate would likely be four times higher.


What do operational successes look like?


NaVCIS’ work with its key stakeholders, including cargo Insurance investigators, have led to a number of notable successes during the last few years. Three examples are:


  • In 2017, insurance investigators working on behalf of Beazley Group identified an Organised Crime Group (OCG) based in Essex. The information was passed to NaVCIS and through liaison with Police colleagues at Essex Police, 18 people were arrested by Essex Police for HGV and cargo-related crimes across the South East of the UK


  • In summer 2019, NaVCIS received notification of a theft from an HGV in Cambridgeshire of £185,000 of fashion shoes from a curtain-sided lorry. Through NaVCIS’ joint working with insurance investigators, a seller of the stolen shoes was identified, and NaVCIS Freight officers and Insurance investigators attended a Car Boot Sale in North Yorkshire where the stolen shoes were being sold. A man was arrested and £20,000 of shoes were recovered


  • In February 2020, NaVCIS was contacted by West Yorkshire Police in relation to a recovery of 700 cartons of fashion goods. Using the NaVCIS data, intelligence and key contacts in the logistics industry, we identified that the 700 cartons of goods valued at £185,000 had been stolen from an HGV at Leicester Forest East Motorway Service Area in December 2019. 90% of the stolen cargo was subsequently returned to the national retailer involved in this case


What does NaVCIS see as the main causes of cargo theft in the UK?


The lack of secure truck parking in the UK is a major contributing factor in relation to cargo thefts.

It must be stated that there is a big difference between Secure and Safe Parking for HGVs. Truck parks such as Formula Services at Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, are a great example of Secure HGV Parking. It has attained TAPA Parking Security Requirements (PSR) accreditation status and incidents of HGV, freight and cargo crime are very rare, if not non-existent. However, NaVCIS would like to see 10 or 15 of these secure parking facilities with adequate HGV parking spaces strategically located across the UK.


Another contributing factor is that criminals see cargo theft as low risk and high reward. NaVCIS is working to increase the attention Police forces devote to cargo theft and for improved awareness of courts when sentencing. Additionally, together with our colleagues at the National Business Crime Centre (NBCC) in the MET, we are seeking a separate Home Office crime classification code to separate cargo theft from other volume vehicle crime.


UK Motorway service areas have been a hotspot for cargo crime for the last 2-3 years at least – is this still the case?


During 2019, NaVCIS received 4,364 notifications of crimes – from these notifications, 1,027 offences (23.5 %) occurred at UK Motorway Service Areas (MSAs). We are working closely with the MSA operators and are in daily and weekly contact with them. They are taking the problem seriously, but more work can be done. Nonetheless, there are some great examples of MSAs working to reduce incident rates, including:


  • Roadchef have paid for security guards, CCTV, and ANPR cameras at MSAs such as Watford Gap and Northampton Services, which had previously seen incidents of HGV related crime
  • Moto have invested in Security Guards at Thurrock Services
  • Welcome Break have invested in extra Security around the new lorry parking facilities at Rothwell Truckstop and Corley M6 Northbound


NaVCIS is also offering local Police Forces and MSAs assistance in implementing Cargo Crime Prevention events and HGV Driver engagement days/evenings. Many of the MSAs have taken up the offer and examples of these events have been held at Roadchef Maidstone M20, Moto Toddington M1, Welcome Break Newport Pagnell M1, and Welcome Break Hartshead Moor M62. General cargo crime prevention is given to drivers in various European languages and Police Forces have also utilised foreign language speaking officers at some of the events to liaise with drivers.


Prior to the COVID lockdown, NaVCIS held discussions with the MSA providers in relation to a Crimestoppers National Cargo Crime Prevention campaign and these are ongoing.


Is NaVCIS seeing any new types of criminal M.O?


Thefts from HGVs were previously seen as opportunistic, but now NaVCIS is aware of highly organised teams of thieves which are committing cargo crimes. These Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) are aware of Police tactics, they have criminal networks to store large volumes of cargo, and to sell on items of stolen cargo. NaVCIS received notification of a theft of cosmetics from an HGV last year, for example, with a cost price loss value of £3.7 million. The OCGs have a network of sellers involved in the sale of such stolen cargo. Emerging M.O. that we’ve seen in the last two years include the emergence of “HGV Jump Up thefts” whereby those responsible will wait until an HGV/lorry is held in traffic or at a junction and they will cut the locks to the semi-trailer door and “Jump Up” and inside the trailer to steal cargo. NaVCIS has also received several notifications of ‘moving freight theft’ offences which involve those responsible entering a moving semi-trailer from a moving vehicle.


How does NaVCIS work with LEAs outside of the UK?


NaVCIS Freight is in contact with Law Enforcement Agencies across Europe as NaVCIS has links with Europol and the NCA (National Crime Agency). NaVCIS periodically speaks with our Police colleagues across Europe, examples being in Germany, France and Romanian. The largest LEA looking at HGV, freight and cargo crime across Europe are Police colleagues in Germany, who are looking at offences across Europe as part of Projekt Cargo. This is probably the only team similar to NaVCIS, but it is funded through the EU.


The NaVCIS Freight Bulletins and Cargo Crime Analysis reports are also circulated through European cargo surveyors and hauliers, so we routinely receive enquiries and calls for assistance from other countries.


Incident rates seem to have dropped during the COVID-19 lockdown – does NaVCIS agree, and how does you see this changing now?


Initially, during the first part of the UK lockdown, we saw a reduction in cargo crime. We estimate that there was around a 40% drop in HGV-related crime during the last week of March, for example, which coincided with the non-essential travel guidance and also fewer lorries on the road. However, since the gradual easing of the lockdown restrictions, thefts of cargo have increased to pre-lockdown levels. Throughout the lockdown, NaVCIS assisted with the reporting of any thefts from HGVs of essential goods, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Food, to the national Police Food and Retail Liaison Team, set up to protect the vital distribution network during the crisis.


What is NaVCIS hoping to achieve from its MoU with TAPA EMEA?


TAPA is an association that is well recognised and respected, with a wide audience and long experience in helping industry. At NaVCIS, we are excited to share our unique insight and detailed data on the UK picture with TAPA’S membership and to make good use of the Association’s IIS mapping tool. High volumes of cargo obviously come into the UK from mainland Europe, in particular, and we believe the TAPA partnership will greatly aid our reach into these hauliers, helping them to avoid becoming victims of cargo crime and helping to make life harder for criminals.


How can TAPA EMEA and its members better support NaVCIS?


NaVCIS manage a UK National Cargo Crime Database – with 4,364 UK notifications last year. The database is used to assist both Police and industry to combat cargo thefts. TAPA members’ first point of call if they are a victim of cargo crime must be to report the matter to the local Police Force. This is a necessity for UK Crime Reporting statistics and also for investigatory purposes, but NaVCIS would also urge TAPA members to notify NaVCIS too at freight@(*** please remove ***)navcis.pnn.police.uk of any thefts/losses. There may be ways that NaVCIS can assist the investigation.