Van thefts accelerating in EMEA

Everyone is familiar with the ‘no tools left inside this vehicle overnight’ messages regularly stuck onto the sides of trade vehicles to dull the appetites of potential thieves. 

Of course, there will always be an endless stream of these kinds of thefts from vans across the EMEA region, but smarter, more informed criminals are moving on from the chance of picking up a power drill or a set of spanners because more and more are waking up to the much richer pickings on offer from supply chains.

Why target a well-used, scuffed or cement covered power tool from the back of a builder’s van when there are vehicles whizzing around local communities packed with shiny new consumer goods of every description? Crazy, right?

Shopify says the global ecommerce market is expected to total $5.55 trillion in 2022, serving an estimated 2.14 global digital buyers. Try to image how many parcels and packages this equates to, and the number of vans needed to satisfy the same- and next-day demands of the modern-day shopper. Then, put yourselves in the trainers of the kind of people who’ve been robbing vans for most of their lives. Would you still be so excited by the cement covered power tool?

Thefts from vans are big business already, and they’re going to get even bigger – and all supply chain security professionals know the reasons why. Since TAPA EMEA was born, the traditional types of high value raids on warehouses – while still very prevalent – have been dwarfed by cargo crimes on the road or in parking places. Fully loaded trucks, while often very well protected from a security perspective, are still a more viable target for criminals than trying to rob a facility full of people, security systems, cameras, and perimeter fences – never mind then also having to find a fast escape route through often very congested environments. Trucks are much easier to target. You either see them parked up, often in dark, secluded laybys, or you follow them and wait until they stop, give the driver time to fall into a deep sleep, and then move in. Often within a matter of minutes, thefts of products worth hundreds of thousands of Euros, and possibly more, are done and dusted. 

So, if trucks are such a lucrative target, why start looking at vans?

The challenge for van operators, and drivers, is that they’ve become a target for the whole spectrum of cargo thieves; Organised Crime Groups, small-time crooks regularly looking for an easy buck, and the total opportunist who’d never even considered stealing anything from a van until they walked past one loaded with parcels and saw the door was open. 

We all know the drill. You’re sat at home, there’s the sound of a van zooming towards your front door, the driver jumps out, throws open the van’s door, rustles around in the back, often leaves the vehicle running and the door still open, and runs to your door to touchdown a parcel of your most eagerly awaited latest purchase. From a security perspective, this spells vulnerability or opportunity, depending on your mindset.

It’s not just home deliveries, obviously. Vans are used to restock shops and, depending on the retail brand they pull up outside of, you don’t have to be a research scientist to work out what’s likely to be inside. It’s situations like this that led a recent study by an insurance comparison site in the United Kingdom to forecast that the annual rate of thefts involving vans in the UK could rise to more than 20,000 vehicles by 2030. It also predicted that 12,000 vans will be stolen in the UK in 2022, up 169% over the past 5 years. 

Statistics show that the items most commonly stolen from vans in the UK are still very much representative of the small-time ‘cement-covered power drill’ kind of thief but for how much longer? The TAPA EMEA Intelligence System (TIS) recorded over 2,000 Last Mile cargo theft incidents in the 18 months to 30 June 2022 and losses of millions of Euros, from individual crimes such as a €100,000 loss of cosmetics and hygiene products, to multiple attacks on vans transporting tobacco products, and cases involving losses of cash-in-transit and tools/building materials.

As the ‘cost of living’ crisis bites, the black market for goods of all kinds is expected to boom, and products moving in small vans may find themselves at greater risk than ever more. Sure, the value of goods onboard a van is a fraction of what a criminal might find on a truck … but look how many vans are out there. They’re everywhere you go. So, the growing question many supply chain security specialists will be asking is simple: ‘Do we have a van plan?’             

To understand more about the risks and the van security market generally, Vigilant reached out to an expert in the field, Terry Rayner, Commercial Director at Locks 4 Vans. Here’s what he had to say…

How big is the commercial van market?

There are approximately 4.5m vans in operation in the UK and about 30m in operation in Europe.  Volumes have been steadily growing in the past decade as the shopping and working habits have seen consumers switching more to online shopping and home delivery services. In the past two years, restrictions in global resources have disrupted the supply of new vehicles, which has led to vans being kept longer by operators. 

What data is available for vehicle break-ins and thefts?

It’s very difficult to get definitive data on thefts from vehicles as not all incidents get reported. It is commonly reported that in the UK over a quarter of all van drivers experience some level of theft from their vans.  In the past 2 years, Locks 4 Vans have experienced a significant increase in enquiries for a wider range of security products as the methods of van attack become more sophisticated. Our shielding products alone have seen up to a 90% increase in enquiry levels as operators become more aware of how to deter attacks. With the UK and Europe facing difficult economic conditions ahead, it’s reasonable to expect that Commercial Vehicles will be targeted more and more by criminal gangs.

What are the common mistakes companies make in relation to van security? 

The initial mistake is to assume that theft from vans is something that happens to someone else.  With van livery advertising the products that are being transported, it is an easy task for criminals to identify the most lucrative targets. Our installer network is constantly being asked to fit security products to vehicles that have already been attacked. The optimum solution is to specify additional locks and security devices at the point of vehicle delivery which will provide a visible deterrent to a potential criminal attack.  

What are the most common types of criminal attacks on vans?

The side loading doors and rear barn doors are the favourite routes of entry for criminals. In recent years, we have seen more and more instances of door peel back, where the doors are pulled back from the door apertures to gain entry into the van load area. The resultant damage to the load area doors alone often requires the van to have major bodywork repair, leading to downtime and loss of business revenue. To thwart this method of attack, bespoke anti-peel products are now available which provide additional interlocking support to vulnerable positions on the doors, preventing them from being prised open.

What types of security locks and systems are available for vans?

Security products for vans have matured considerably, from the days of a padlock and clasp on the back of a van to a highly developed range of devices that will protect against different types of attack. Deadlocks and Hooklocks typically upgrade OE locks and provide a much higher level of security. Internal latch shields and guards provide additional security to prevent attacks on door latches and wiring looms. Anti-peel devices add extra fixings to load area doors and prevent doors being prised away from the door aperture. Surface mounted locks that brace load area doors to the bodywork are also becoming popular as a visible deterrent to any opportunist criminal.

Given the big rise in ecommerce/home deliveries, has there been a quantifiable growth in the market for van security?  

Most certainly yes. Attacks on vans are unfortunately becoming a more common occurrence and often take place in broad daylight. We’ve seen a 136% increase in repair plate enquiries in the past 12 months alone. These plates are used to provide reinforcement to an area of the vehicle that has already been attacked. 

A high percentage of vans in the ecommerce/home delivery sector are operating in densely populated areas like cities and towns. Does this increase or lower the likelihood of a theft? 

The rise in online ordering has resulted in delivery vans becoming a favoured target for theft. With high value goods being parked and left unattended in residential areas, whilst local deliveries are conducted, these vehicles are vulnerable to attack. With the emphasis on speed of delivery, it is all too easy for the vehicle driver to forget to lock the van, leaving the contents at risk during deliveries.  Slam locking devices are an easy solution to overcome this. They automatically lock the door when it is slammed shut, giving the delivery driver peace of mind that the contents are safe from   opportunist thieves.

Organised crime groups regularly target trucks and will see vans as a growing target too. But is it fair to say that vans are also more of a target for small-time/opportunist cargo thieves?  

Yes, vans are more likely to be parked in less secure areas than trucks and contain easier, transportable volumes. Vans are also likely to either contain tools, high value retail goods or specialist products such as pharmaceuticals, all of which can be resold on the black market to provide easy cash for the opportunist thief.  

What have been the biggest innovations in van security in the last 2-3 years? 

The major change in the van security business is the recognition that van theft is evolving at a fast pace. We have set-up our own in-house Innovation Centre to constantly improve designs and use installer feedback to anticipate how future attacks will occur. 

What new technology or solutions are coming onto the market to take van security to a higher level? 

Electronically controlled locks have traditionally been seen as a logical next step in locking solutions.  However, driven by the growth of aggressive power tool attacks on vans, the need to provide greater protection through anti-drill and anti-cut shields and devices has grown rapidly. This has resulted in all our internal shields being made out of materials that are resistant to power tool attacks to reduce the risk of entry to the vehicle.

How much of van security is down to the driver? Is the driver an asset or risk to van security?  Good question. Unfortunately, driver behaviour is an important factor in the security of the vehicle.  Leaving the van unlocked or parked in a less secure area will increase the risk of attack. We spend many hours with operators designing specific locking systems that will aid the driver and reduce the risk of the vehicle being left unlocked.

What advice can you offer?  

The best advice, perhaps not surprisingly, would be to consult with a specialist provider to conduct a security risk assessment of your current business transportation set-up. There is no standard set of requirements. Different business types, using different vehicles in different markets in different climates, means that ‘one size’ doesn’t fit all. Prevention is far cheaper than having to deal with the aftermath of a criminal attack. Damaged vehicles, lost product, dissatisfied customers and unproductive vehicle downtime can all be minimised with a carefully constructed package of vehicle security measures at relatively low cost.

If you have information of cargo thefts from vans in the EMEA region, please share your intelligence with TAPA EMEA at tisteam@tapaemea.org

Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA
Van thefts accelerating in EMEA