Haulage firms are being warned to be on their guard and the public asked to be extra vigilant and not buy Christmas presents or goods on the black market as cargo thefts peak at this time of year.
Toys, food, white goods, and perfumes are among the types of products that organised crime gangs are targeting for a quick resale, with 140 such crimes in the West Mercia force area this year – almost double last year’s total of 83.
Last Friday (1 December) a trailer full of cheeses with an estimated value of £50,000 was stolen from Strensham services on the M5 and another full of household goods including washing powder and food was taken from the Hartlebury Trading estate near Kidderminster on November 26.
They have contributed to an estimated loss value of £1.35million in cargo from service stations at Frankley, Strensham, Telford and Hopwood over the past few years and officers expect there will be even more opportunities for gangs as deliveries ramp up to meet consumer demand at Christmas.
Detective Sergeant Andrew Farmer of the Field Intelligence team in South Worcestershire said: “The majority of these thefts are linked to an organised crime gang in West Yorkshire that has been operating for decades as well as ones in the West Midlands and Merseyside who see it as a ‘low-risk high reward’ enterprise.
“We recognise there is an increased demand for black market goods, perhaps because of inflation rises and the cost-of-living crisis but items that have literally ‘fell off the back of a lorry’ are of course illegal and acquiring them this way simply fuels more freight crime.
“We continue to work collaboratively with partner forces to tackle these crimes as part of Operation Yard, which sees officers deter criminal gangs from targeting delivery lorries by ensuring police are present in hot-spot areas, especially during the evenings, and issue security advice to lorry drivers.”
Detective Constable Dan Griffiths of the West Mercia Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) added: “These high value acquisitive crimes relate to all products that go into the supply chain, be they white goods, groceries, retail items or raw materials, so their theft ultimately affects all of us.
“There’s a reputational impact on large carriers too if their lorries are getting raided as they will lose custom, as well as insurance premiums go up and stock missing from our supermarket shelves, so any additional costs in the chain will eventually get passed on to the customer.
“I would encourage people to be vigilant about ‘freight crime’. If you are at a motorway service station for example, and you think you see something suspicious, please report it to us via our online portal Report a crime | West Mercia Police so we can investigate it.
“To road hauliers we advise that before starting your journey, decide where you are going to park overnight and use a secure overnight lorry park with the Park Mark label. Locations of secure lorry parks in England are at www.highways.gov.uk/knowledge/13659.aspx
“Park your lorry where you can see it. Park with the loading doors close to another vehicle or wall. When returning to your lorry, check for signs of any interference. Record your check on a checklist.”
PC Mike Dawber, a Field Intelligence Officer on the Freight Desk at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) said: “NaVCIS is here to map cargo crimes more accurately such as curtain slashes and trailer thefts and we receive more than 5,000 notifications about such offences annually, but we are pleased to report there have been two big steps forward in the last 12 months.
“Firstly, the UK needs to adopt a UK secure truck parking standard via the British Parking Association’s implemented scheme “Park Mark Freight” and ten sites are now accredited in the country. NaVCIS is looking at this with West Mercia Police for sites in their force area.
“Secondly, there is £52.5million of government money being promised to improve driver welfare facilities such as showers and toilets and security such as CCTV, barrier access, lighting and fencing at existing truck parks and motorway services which is match-funded, meaning it is a potential overall investment of £105million.
“I’m also pleased to report that there is good policing work going on nationally that has seen 56 arrests made in October alone for cargo crimes.”
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