Throughout the pandemic haulage companies have worked hard to keep the UK economy going, ensuring supply chains are maintained against a backdrop of increased consumer demand.
While new challenges related to Covid-19 have presented themselves, the ongoing threat of freight crime continues to disrupt the UK freight industry.
According to NaVCIS, the UK’s national policing unit dedicated to bridging the gap between policing and industry, more than 900 notifications of freight crime were recorded in the first three months of 2021.
Freight crime and the pandemic
PC Mike Dawber, Field Intelligence Officer for NaVCIS Freight, explains the impact that the pandemic has had on freight crime:
“There was a national pattern of reduced crime reporting during the first national lockdown, due to the increase in the amount of time that people were spending at home.
“As restrictions have gradually lifted we have seen levels of reported freight crime steadily increase, heading towards pre-pandemic figures.
“While the number of reports received for the first three months of 2021 is below average, the freight industry still needs to be vigilant against freight crime.”
A new method of entry to the trailers of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) was reported during this period; referred to as ‘hard side – hole cut’, whereby an angle grinder is used to open the metal skin of the trailer, was used four times, all at motorway service areas on the M1.
PC Dawber explains why this is a significant development:
“While this method is certainly not common, it’s important that haulage companies are aware. This method relies on an angle grinder, which shows the level of organisation and determination of those committing this type of offence.
“Gaining entry to trailers is still the most common method of cargo theft. Usually this involves curtain slashing, where a sharp object is used to cut the curtain to access the cargo. It’s crucial that haulage companies make use of prevention techniques to help defend themselves and the cargo they transport.”
Top tips to protect the industry
According to PC Dawber, there are several steps the freight industry can take to protect itself:
“My top recommendation is to encourage drivers to make use of secure parking. The majority of reports we receive are where thefts have occurred from insecure, road-side parking, which means HGVs are easier to target.”
“Making use of secure parking means HGVs are in well-lit, often enclosed areas, with additional security measures. We know there is a shortage of secure parking within the UK, but making use of those facilities where possible will help protect the industry.
“My second recommendation is to consider cargo concealment, which is especially important for hauliers that make frequent stops in busy towns and cities, supplying sought-after commodities such as cigarettes.
“We received 104 reports of ‘jump-up’ thefts in this period. This happens when a lorry or trailer has stopped, often at traffic lights or when making deliveries, and offenders gain access from the street to steal the cargo. More than half of these happened in London and 81% of cargo stolen was tobacco.
“Concealing cargo can help deter this type of theft as it makes the gains less obvious and the cargo more difficult to access.”
Other measures NaVCIS recommends are to use hard-sided trailers. While these are not impossible to access, they are considerably more difficult to break into than curtain-sided lorries.
Hotspot areas and patterns of offending
Another recommendation is to avoid ‘hotspots’. NaVCIS analyses freight crime to pinpoint those persistent crime locations. This information is shared with law enforcement to help inform targeted police patrols.
Three ‘hotspots’ were identified during this period: A421 near Wootton in Bedfordshire, an industrial area near A127 in Basildon, and Clacket Lane motorway service area on the M25 in Surrey.
The A421 hotspot is a persistent crime location for fuel theft. Of the 28 incidents reported at this location, one incident alone was a loss of IT equipment valued at £450,000.
The A127 hotspot is a large business park, where 23 incidents were reported, totalling an estimated loss value of £1,543,700.
The Clacket Lane hotspot is another persistent one, which NaVCIS reported as the second-highest targeted motorway service area in 2020 (second only to Thurrock Services). The commodity most-targeted at Clacket Lane is fuel, which was also the case in 2020.
PC Dawber urges companies to be cautious when using routes within these areas:
“Offending usually happens mid-week, overnight, with independent roads the most-targeted location. Avoiding these areas isn’t always possible, but using the most secure parking option available can help protect your drivers, your cargo and your business.”
Become a member of NaVCIS Freight
NaVCIS Freight provides regular analysis, bulletins and reports to law enforcement, trusted partners and members, which includes detailed assessment of hotspots, emerging trends and crime-prevention recommendations.
If you would like access to the reports in full, take a look here: how to become a member of NaVCIS Freight.