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New data indicates Covid restrictions lowered the cargo crime ‘infection rate’ in the first half of 2021… but is this the true picture? The lower rate of cargo crime data recorded by TAPA’s Incident Information Service (IIS) in Europe, the Middle East & Africa (EMEA) for the first half of 2021 appears to provide further evidence of the disruption caused to criminals’ activities by continuing Covid-related restrictions across the region.
In the period from 1 January-30 June, TAPA EMEA’s IIS database added 1,565 new cargo theft reports spanning 43 countries. Despite only 355 or 22.8% of these incidents stating a value, the financial loss for the half-year still produced a substantial total of €72,265,605 or an average of €399,257 every 24 hours for the 181 days in this period.
Intelligence provided to the Association in EMEA included 46 major cargo losses involving products of €100,000 or more. These high value crimes accounted for €66,869,831 of the six-month total or an average per incident of €1,453,691. A further 39 incident reports stated losses of between €50,000 and €100,000 worth a combined €2,498,375 and an average of €64,060.
10 countries accounted for 89.8% of all cargo thefts recorded by TAPA’s IIS:
Of the remaining 154 incidents in a further 33 countries, five recorded double-digit incident rates:
Vigilant is unable to report a significant number of incidents added to the IIS database because this intelligence is only made available to members to use as part of their own supply chain resilience planning. Of the crimes which can be published, the top 10 highest value losses in H1/2021 involved:
€50,000,000 – Gold & diamonds
The biggest single cargo theft of the year to date took place in the Netherlands on 19 May.
The crime was made even more high profile as the robbery of the facility in Amsterdam and subsequent police chase was captured on film by members of the public and shared by Dutch media outlets. During the early afternoon attack, masked men with machine guns jumped out of cars outside the premises of a leading precious metals trading company in order to attack an armoured truck. Photographs by local residents show one of the robbers standing guard and firing several shots into the air while others completed the theft.
After fleeing the scene of the crime, the offenders headed north on the N247 provincial road, with Dutch police now in hot pursuit by road and in the air using a police helicopter. Reports said shots were fired between law enforcement officers and the robbers, who ended up in Broek in Waterland in the province of North Holland. At one point, the thieves were seen racing along bicycle paths at 60-70kph. One of the getaway cars came to an abrupt stop after crashing through a fence into a garden and ramming into a tree. Images from the property’s security camera showed the suspects fleeing into the adjacent meadow. Two other vehicles used by the robbers are believed to have been set on fire as the thieves tried to escape on foot.
The quick response of Dutch Police led to the immediate arrests of six suspects, while another was killed trying to escape. An eighth person was arrested a few hours later on the A16 near Rotterdam. After successfully recovering the €50m haul, it was transferred to an unknown location onboard a police truck.
€3,307,214 - Phones
In Kelvin in South Africa’s Gauteng province on 3 March, police responded after receiving information of a planned armed robbery of a truck transporting a consignment of Phones. Arriving at the vehicle’s location, officers came under fire from the suspects and retaliated. Fourteen offenders were subsequently arrested, while others reportedly escaped on foot. Sadly, a security guard and was fatally shot during the attack.
€2,107,093 – Cash
Violent offenders hijacked a cash-in-transit truck west of Harare in Zimbabwe on 7 January after the driver and two security guards took the extraordinary decision to offer a lift to six passengers, one of whom pulled a gun on the driver and guards and forced the truck to pull over. The offenders then loaded seven cash boxes into a waiting car and escaped. Media reports suggested the crime was the biggest cash-in-transit heist in the country’s history. One article commented: “In a country with severe cash shortages, and where people queue for days at banks, this is an eye-watering sum to lose.”
€1,000,000 – Miscellaneous goods
On 2 February, police in Saint-Aybert, France, arrested 13 offenders suspected of breaking into trucks and stealing goods worth more than €1m. The gang were believed to have been active since October 2020. During searches, investigators found numerous pallets of food, household electronics, cosmetics, shoes, bicycles and electric scooters.
€695,095 – Car parts
On 29 January, offenders in South Africa’s Western Cape province hijacked a truck and stole 549 boxes of catalytic converters. The vehicle was targeted while waiting at traffic lights as gunmen opened the cab door and threatened the driver. The truck and part of its load were found abandoned in the large township of Kwanobhule. Two suspects were later remanded in custody in Port Elizabeth.
€413,994 - Copper
In another major cargo theft in South Africa, a group of offenders stole trailers carrying a cargo of copper plates from a business in Olifantsfontein in Gauteng province on 6 June before making their escape.
€400,000 - Cigarettes
A truck driver and his assistant waiting to deliver a shipment of cigarettes to a Destination Facility in Vienne, France, on 30 March were targeted by four offenders and forced to move the truck to a dead end road, next to a waiting van. The driver and assistant were then instructed to transfer the cargo into the van before the offenders torched the delivery truck and escaped.
€300,000 – Luxury clothing
This loss report to TAPA’s IIS stated the arrests of four staff working in a logistics facility in Nogarole Rocca, in the Italian region of Veneto, on 19 May, connected to thefts of luxury clothing. The employees would allegedly hide garments on their person or in their backpacks to remove them from the site at the end of their shifts. Police officers, alerted to the losses, searched the suspects’ homes and recovered €300,000 worth of stolen goods. Four other members of staff were being sought as part of the police investigation.
€275,000 – Jewellery & gold
This Last Mile cargo crime involved the violent robbery of a delivery vehicle transporting jewellery and gold after three offenders with firearms carried out an attack in Lyon, France, on 26 March, as the shipment was being transferred to another truck.
€250,000 – Tobacco
On 13 January, offenders wearing hoods and using firearms forced a truck carrying a shipment of tobacco to stop in the town of Buchères in north-central France. The offenders quickly loaded the tobacco products into their vehicle before escaping the scene.
In the €50K-€100K loss category, 10 of the highest value losses featured thefts of:
As is now often the case, most goods targeted by cargo thieves were reported to TAPA EMEA’s IIS database as either miscellaneous or unspecified. In H1/2021, this accounted for over 75% of crime reports. Analysis of the half-year data, however, still shows recorded losses in 19 IIS product categories, including 13 with double-digit rates of incidents:
Theft from Vehicle crimes represented 515 or 32.9% of the incidents reported to TAPA EMEA in H1/2021, ahead of:
A total of 66 truck and van hijackings were recorded as well as 47 cases of Clandestine intrusions involving migrants trying to cross borders. Only 3.8% or 61 crimes were Theft from Facility attacks. 194 (12.4%) of all incidents identified by the Association involved the M.O. of Violent or Threat with Violence.
Of the known types of locations where cargo crimes occurred, Destination Facility recorded the highest total of 380 incidents or 24.3% of the half-yearly total. This partly reflects the growth in attacks on Last Mile delivery vehicles. The lack of secure truck parking in the EMEA region was also a significant factor in the 346 or 22.2% of crimes targeting trucks in Unclassified Parking Locations.
The big question now for supply chain security professionals is what lies behind the 50% year-on-year fall in cargo crimes recorded by TAPA EMEA’s IIS. The 1,565 reported incidents in H1/2021 compares to 3,278 in the H1/2020 report in Vigilant a year ago. Is this a genuine indicator of less criminal activity or simply a case of a lower level of reporting of the incidents which are taking place because companies and law enforcement agencies are themselves disrupted and distracted by the diverse consequences of the pandemic? Only time will tell.