A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?

Only time will tell if the global ‘cost-of-living’ crisis breeds a new generation of small-time cargo criminals, but few would be surprised if it doesn’t. Some would suggest the signs are already emerging… 

This is nothing new. The well-known phrase of ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ is said to have originated from the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates. A more modern-day assessment, from the assistant crime commissioner in the United Kingdom is probably even more apt in the current economic climate, as he warned: “Poverty leads to desperation.”

Depending on your financial circumstances, your measurement of ‘poverty’ will differ profoundly. Only being able to afford a one-week summer holder instead of two or three weeks hardly compares to not being able to pay your rent or mortgage, heat your home or feed your family. But, at all levels, the pressures is on as consumers come to terms with falling standards of living, higher food, fuel and energy prices – and the fear of still higher interest rates, job losses or a housing market crash. 

You don’t have to ‘Google’ for very long to find stories of rising petty crime, a boom in first-time shoplifters, falling retail sales or a rise in insurance fraud. Households which managed to build up a financial reserve during long period of lockdown over the past two years are likely to also be significantly depleting their ‘piggy banks’. 

Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) will have been reading these signs closely and recognising the potential to line their own pockets. The black market is buoyant at the best of times but this economic crisis, still seen by many to be in its early stages, is the ‘gift that keeps on giving’ to crime groups – and that means heightened risks to supply chains moving the kinds of every day and luxury goods which become either so scarce or so sought-after during hard times.    

Cargo crime intelligence reported to the TAPA EMEA Intelligence System (TIS) in June shows only anecdotal signs of the types of petty crimes some expect to grow, but they’re evident, nonetheless. OCGs rarely do anything by halves. Why steal a smartphone when you can steal a truckload of smartphones? Petty thieves are far less brazen and, presumably, much more fearful of getting caught. 

Crime data reported so far for June will be far from the total recorded for the month by the end of the year because the summer holidays across Europe, especially, traditional delay incident reporting. So, which crimes might indicate the work of a small-time cargo thief? Some examples last month included thefts of:

  • 20 phones valued at €. 9.416 after a hole was cut into the side of a pallet freshly arrived in Germany from Asia. 
  • Tobacco and spirits stolen from an Origin Facility in Papenburg, Lower Saxony, Germany, valued at €. 4.000. 
  • 10 televisions stolen from a trailer in London worth €. 4.830. 
  • €. 6.529 of cigarettes stolen after thieves broke into a container in Haifa, Israel. 
  • 7 mobile phones taken from a Services 3rd Party Facility in Donaueschingen in the German state of  Baden-Württemberg with a value of €. 2.763.
  •  A single laptop worth €. 2.000 from a container in an Origin Facility in Nordhorn in northwest Germany.
  • €. 2.000 of hygiene products stolen from an Origin Facility in Grosenkneten, Germany.

TAPA EMEA members are asked to inform the TIS team of any incidents which might indicate first-time, internal, opportunist or low value crimes, potentially fuelled by the ‘cost-of-living’ crisis, to support a more considered appraisal of the risk environment.

Overall, TIS has so far recorded 160 new cargo thefts in June 2022, based of reports of incidents in 25 countries in the EMEA region. Only 22.1% or 37 of these crimes gave a value and these produced a combined loss of €. 1.232.960 or an average of €. 32.446.

Six major cargo thefts with a value of €100,000 or more were identified by TIS with a total value of €855,730 or an average of €142,621. These involved losses of:

€. 275.000 

The theft of a shipment of copper in Cologne, Germany, on the first day of the month. Thieves stole a trailer and its cargo of metal from an unclassified parking location in one of 67 cargo crimes recorded in Germany during June. 

€. 160.000

In Posneck, Thuringia, in Germany, a truck and trailer with no load was taken from an industrial area on 29 June.  

€. 118.539

On 14 June, another loss of copper was recorded in South Africa after offenders with firearms robbed an Origin Facility in Virginia, Free State, before making their escape.

€. 102.191

Copper thieves were also active in Serbia, trying to steal copper cables from an Origin Facility in Nis in the south of the country. Police later arrested several suspects following the theft on 15 June. 


Two separate values were recorded for this violent theft of jewellery/precious metals from an Origin Facility in Moirans, southeastern France, after offenders with firearms attacked the facility on 26 June. The loss values ranged from €1 million to €. 100.000


In Heilbronn in southwest Germany on 22 June, a tractor unit worth €100,000 was stolen. 

TAPA EMEA has so far recorded only one incident with a loss value of between €50K-€100K in the past month – the theft of 10 pallets of footwear after thieves sliced open the tarpaulin curtain of a truck in an Unsecured Parking Location in Schwülper in Lower Saxony, Germany, on 23 June. 

As previously stated, the 40.1% or 67 incidents recorded in Germany was the highest national total in June. Of the 25 countries suppering thefts from supply chains, five – including Germany – accounted for 78.4% of all crimes over the 30 days of the month. The other countries were: 

  • United Kingdom – 25 incidents or 15% of the monthly total
    • South Africa – 19 or 11.3% 
    • Russia – 10 or 6% 
    • Italy – 10 or 6%

As seen in the previous five months of 2022, June also recorded a higher than usual number of Theft from Facility crimes. The 66 incidents represented 39.5% of the monthly total and was the highest single incident category during the month following a decline in attacks on vehicles compared with previous months. Despite this, Theft from Vehicle, Theft from Trailer, and Theft of Vehicle crimes  still accounted for 59 incidents or 35.3% of the June total.

Successful police operations as well as the continuing trend of fuel thefts in EMEA were the two other headlines in June.

In South Africa, on 27 June, police officers quickly intercepted an attempted truck hijacking in Etwatwa, in Gauteng province. The suspects were quickly arrested as they tried to flee the scene. On the same day in Chiavari, Genoa, Italy, police arrested an offender in connection with a spate of diesel thefts from cargo delivery vehicles in the area. 

Germany continued to be a ‘hotspot’ for recorded cases of fuel thefts. Nine of the 11 Fuel Thefts recorded in June occurred in the Germany, while, in addition to the aforementioned arrest in Italy, TIS also recorded an incident in Bronkhorstspruit, east of Pretoria, South Africa. All of these cases appeared to be ‘skimming’ thefts involving losses of a few hundred litres of fuel at a time. 

Goods were recorded stolen in 15 TAPA EMEA TIS product categories. On more than 50% of crimes reported to the TIS database, the product categories were shown as either miscellaneous or unspecified. The top five products by numbers of incidents were   

  • Metal – 26 incidents or 15.6% of the monthly total
  • Fuel Theft – 11 (6.6%)
  • Tools/Building Materials – 8 (4.7%) 
  • Furniture/Household Appliances, Tyres, Cash – all 4 incidents (2.4% each)

If you have cargo crime intelligence to share with TAPA EMEA, please send it to our TIS Team, tisteam@tapaemea.org.

A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?
A ‘cost-of-living’ breeding ground for 1st time thieves?