With Christmas just around the corner, police are warning haulage firms to be on their guard after thefts of goods from trailers to sell on the black market as presents soar.

Toys, food, white goods, and perfumes are among the products that organised crime gangs are targeting for a quick resale, with 140 such crimes reported in the West Mercia force area this year – almost double last year’s total of 83.

On 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 26 November.

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 said there are likely to be 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 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.”