Dutch National Police launch new Cargo Theft Reporting Hotline – now they need companies to proactively share incident data

Many of the most proactive responses to tackling the growing threat of cargo crime in the EMEA region have originated in the Netherlands, a country that sits at the heart of European supply chains for global manufacturers and logistics service providers. Vigilant reports on the country’s latest initiative, a new 24-hour Cargo Theft Reporting Hotline and speaks to Krista Bonhof, Programme Manager at the Dutch National Police. The police are doing their bit to tackle crime in the Netherlands. Now they need our support. That’s why, if you’re a victim of a cargo crime in the Netherlands, they’re waiting for your call.

TAPA EMEA’s Incident Information Service recorded 527 cargo crime incidents in the Netherlands in 2016 (+24.8% year-on-year) and 188 in Q1 2017 (+49.2%) year-on-year. Obviously a high percentage of this data is from the Dutch police. Do you believe this is an accurate picture of the level of freight theft incidents in the Netherlands?

It provides a realistic view of reports and filed charges that we as police receive in regards of cargo crime incidents involving trucks exceeding 3500Kg. At the same time we know that there is a low willingness from transport companies to file reports, particularly because of the assumption that it is really having no effect. The preparedness to file a report needs to increase. Filing a report to register criminal activity must change to be standard policy. The reports expose the problems. We hope that the central reporting hotline contributes to an increase in the willingness to report.

What intelligence can you share on the perpetrators of cargo crimes in the Netherlands? Are most crimes being conducted by Dutch nationals or criminals from other countries? Also, are most thefts by individuals or by organised criminal gangs?

It is often by organised criminal gangs. The thefts are predominantly committed by (fixed) groups of Dutch nationals. More and more we see that cargo crimes are committed by “mobile” groups of perpetrators. The majority of cargo crime still takes place on non-secured parking areas by cutting the tarpaulin sides of trucks.

Are you seeing any new trends in terms of cargo crime?

Just like with other types of criminality we see a shift from a “physical” approach to a targeted manipulation of information flows. Cyber security, therefore, becomes more important in the transport sector. Also we see, apart from the Southern part of the Netherlands, other regions are now experiencing cargo crimes. One example is in the Noord-Holland province. Up until recently we did not have much cargo crime here. More than ever, we see mobile, international criminal groups that are not afraid. They don’t care about having their faces caught on camera.

TAPA EMEA has launched a new programme to try to identify a network of secure parking places for trucks in EMEA, and especially Europe. Do you think more secure parking places in the Netherlands would help to reduce the number of attacks on trucks?

The police can contribute to decrease the level of cargo crimes via repression and actions to disrupt the activity but this does not prevent the crime itself. By taking preventative measures, criminals have fewer opportunities. Parking on secure parking areas is one of the examples of preventative measures. The condition then is that there needs to be a sufficient number of affordable secure parking areas.

What has prompted the launch of the Cargo Theft Reporting Hotline? Are you concerned that a lot of incidents in the Netherlands are still unreported – and why is it so important that you get this information?

The industry and the police want to bring down the number of cargo crime incidents. We have an action plan “Transport Criminality 2017-2018” represented by all industry partners; police, Ministry of Safety and Justice, Public Prosecutor, Verbond van Verzekeraars (VVV), TAPA, EVO, Stichting Aanpak voertuig criminaliteit and the Ministry of Infrastructure. The cargo crime Hotline is part of this action plan.

I do understand that companies are not filing reports because they think it doesn’t make much sense and is very time consuming. But to get insight into the nature and cause of the matter, filing reports of cargo crime is an absolute must. Without these reports, the police cannot follow up because there will not be sufficient intelligence to investigate and pursue this form of criminality. With the hotline, we are making a connection to the 24hrs economy. Companies are now able to file a report at any place and time, without losing time.   

Is the hotline just for reporting cargo crimes in the Netherlands or can Dutch companies that suffer cargo crimes in other countries also use it?

The hotline is only for cargo crime incidents that happened in the Netherlands. The hotline is installed to serve the companies and drivers suffering a loss in the Netherlands and to help the police to respond in an appropriate way.

How will having more incident data help the Dutch police reduce the level of cargo thefts?

With this special phone number, the police will be able to improve the quality of recorded information which increases the chances of finding the suspects. The police resources are low. If police know where the hotspots are they can deploy their resources much more effectively.

What other initiatives are in place in the Netherlands to tackle the issue of cargo theft and are any other actions planned?

The action plan contains multiple activities that we enforce collectively. One of the actions is regress optimisation and case delegation. Another action is the deployment of camera images and data from other sensors (sensing) from public and private parties to fight cargo crime.

Dutch police proactively share incident intelligence with TAPA EMEA’s Incident Information Service. What do you see as the value of this?

A safe and secure society is built with each other. The police cannot do this on our own. TAPA is one of the partners we work actively with. By sharing our information, TAPA can inform their members and provide a tool which enables them to take appropriate measures by, for example, changing their transportation routes. This prevents theft from happening. TAPA also deploys other initiatives to prevent cargo crime, for example the project in regards to secure parking standards.

On top of that, it is important for all transport partners to have a combined view of the nature and cause of the problem and to have “noise” in the data. For the police, filed reports are important and not just remarks or messages. TAPA can help us to increase the preparedness to file cargo crime incident reports by motivating and supporting its members.

Do you have much dialogue with other law enforcement agencies in Europe regarding cargo crime and, if so, what more can TAPA EMEA do to encourage other police forces to work more closely with the Association?

We have discussions with other police organisations at a European level. Europol is the connecting factor in this. The Netherlands is one of the few countries with a central information point for cargo crime. In our neighbouring countries we see that this is not always the case and that a more local level of cooperation is in place.

TAPA can be an ambassador for our concept in the other European countries.

With a lot of criminals now crossing borders to commit cargo crimes in other countries, how challenging is it for national police agencies to identify and prosecute cargo thieves? Do we need a broader EU solution?

Mobile crime is a separate topic within the National Police. We see these international gangs operating not only in cargo crime but in many other areas too. Criminals have not been respecting borders for a long time. It becomes more and more important to exchange information within the EU and to work together. This also goes for cargo crime. A perfect example is the research that started in the Netherlands and an intensive cooperation with other countries is ongoing.

It is clearly understood that police forces everywhere have far greater priorities these days, notably counter-terror policing. How big a priority is the issue of cargo crime for law enforcement agencies now?

Fortunately cargo crime has a low threat level compared to other subjects like terrorism. This is emphasised in a recently-published National threat level. Despite this, transport crime, including cargo theft, gets a fair level of attention. It is one of the six security themes of the National police unit. All services within the National unit are contributing to this. A programme manager has been appointed; a separate information team is working on the theme; and enforcement and investigation resources from the “Infra” department are available. The National unit is not acting on its own. It takes the lead in cooperation with the regional units.

What advice can you give to manufacturers and logistics companies that are moving goods in and through the Netherlands to keep their staff and products secure?

Make use of the initiatives, tips and tools developed by TLN, TAPA, and the Insurers Association. When you see something suspicious, always call 112 and make pictures or videos of the situation.

In your opinion, are companies doing enough to protect themselves against cargo crime?

There are a number of companies that are doing a lot to protect themselves against cargo crime. They adjust the level of security against the risk level of the load and the route. Unfortunately, there are also a number of companies that don’t implement these measures. The majority of the cargo crime incidents still involve criminals cutting tarpaulins on non-secure parking sites. The companies targeted are sometimes not sufficiently aware of the risks. We often see the MKB companies (middle and smaller size) go bankrupt as a result of a theft because customers stay away or because the limitation of their insurance is exceeded when there is, for example, collusion of employees.

Screening of employees is next to the deployment of equipment and route planning. It is also of the utmost importance. Not only the “declaration of behaviour” but also the Warning Register Logistic Sector (www.stichtingwls.nl). Everyone should consult and use this to prevent theft. I am also happy with the website www.preventieinzicht.nl. This is a digital tool where companies and drivers test their knowledge on preventing cargo crime.

I still only find a low number of companies which are aware of these initiatives and use them. That is a shame because these initiatives will only work when they are used.

What has been the response so far to the launch of the hotline and how will you measure its success?

We have received many positive reactions. For us the hotline will be seen as successful when more companies begin filing reports and are satisfied with the way they are addressed and informed on the next steps. If we are successful, we will learn from the feedback we receive from the industry and partners like TAPA.

We are also keen to hear any suggestions to improve the concept. Are you satisfied? If so, spread the message. If not, please tell us!






Marcel Saarloos, TAPA EMEA BoD and IIS Lead, commented: 

‘As everyone knows, TAPA’s Incident Information Service (IIS) relies heavily on input from our members and maybe even more so from our partners.

‘The Dutch National Police have proven to be a great partner from the beginning in terms of their willingness to share their data. Working with the Dutch police is truly a win-win situation as they allow us to use their data and, by the same token, we provide them access to our data. One of the great things about our partnership is that we align our efforts, work together and help each other wherever possible. This is a perfect example of public and private cooperation.

‘We applaud this latest initiative by the Dutch police to introduce a Cargo Theft Reporting Hotline. It demonstrates their proactive approach to combating cargo crime and we hope other national police forces in Europe will consider following this example. We also urge TAPA members that are victims of cargo thefts in the Netherlands to report these crimes using the police hotline as well as to our IIS team.’