Hauliers in England and Wales are suffering an “alarmingly high level” of cargo thefts from lorries, according to a report published by the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS).
The report is calling for all UK lorry parking to be upgraded to a nationally recognised secure status, for greater policing resources and tougher sentences for the criminals, who are often part of organised criminal gangs.
NaVCIS, which is a police unit with a freight team that collates, analyses and disseminates road freight crime information across England and Wales, produced the report at the request of the Home Office.
Dubbed Profile of HGV, Freight & Cargo Crime Across England & Wales 2022 (Freight Crime), the report reveals that freight cargo theft across England and Wales in 2022 amounted to £66.6m with 4,995 HGV and cargo crimes reported last year – with data on further freight thefts still being received.
The report also found that NaVCIS’ work has contributed to a reduction in the indirect cost to the national economy from an estimated £700m in 2019 to £428m in 2021.
DCI Brett Mallon, head of unit at NaVCIS said: “Our report contains wide-ranging recommendations in order to rectify, or at least reduce the effects of what we believe is a damaging situation at all levels – to individuals, consumers, retail and manufacturing sectors, logistics and transport companies, insurers and the national economy as a whole. We have put forward this advice to government by way of this report.
He added: “Investment in, and legislation surrounding secure parking is not the least of these. There are law enforcement and policing reforms regarding freight crime that are also urgently required and, of course through the recognition of the seriousness of the issue, a significant increase in resources as well.”
Mike Yarwood, MD of loss prevention at freight transport insurance specialist TT Club, which supports the work of NaVCIS, added: “This is still an alarmingly high level of loss despite the excellent work of the NaVCIS unit.
“Recognition by the UK government of the need for action to combat such crime is welcomed and we are hopeful that the NaVCIS Freight Crime problem profile will instil some urgency into such action and elicit financial support.
“In the meantime the unit relies entirely on funding from industry including the insurance community.
TT urges entities that don’t yet support NaVCIS Freight to proffer their support as we do ourselves.
The key conclusions outlined in the Freight Crime report are:
• Freight crime is committed by Organised Crime Groups (OCGs), prepared to travel hundreds of miles; highly skilled, determined and mobile criminals, aware of police tactics.
• This is a low risk and high reward crime, regrettably low on police priorities due to available resources.
• Supply sector under intense pressure from effects of crime, which causes disruption and delay, impacting the viability of companies, retention of staff, and investment in the UK.
• Lack of a central crime category or tag means crime largely hidden, lenient criminal justice outcomes following prosecutions and low priority for action by government.
• Lack of investment in infrastructure, particularly in improvement of parking security standards, to be sufficient to deter criminals.
• Direct public health risk may arise from stolen medicines and food stuffs.
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• All existing truck parking provision should be upgraded to ‘Secure’ standards, as ‘safe’ or non-certified sites provide little deterrent.
• Government agencies should support a single, robust UK parking standard that is to ‘secure’ level; with funding to help implement.
• Regulation and planning support should be provided by government.
• Provision of, or contributions towards, secure truck parking should be a requirement for any large new industrial/ commercial developments.
• All new parking site developments should be required to meet secure standards.
• Creation of an NPCC lead for Freight crime
• Designate in law enforcement an agency/force to lead on Freight Crime, with appropriate funding for continuity of effort.
• Acceptance of a UK Policing definition for Freight Crime ( it proposes the NaVCIS definition).
• Home Office to create a new freight crime category or Home Office to insist all UK police forces instigate a ‘#FreightCrime’ tag to existing crime categories, to allow comprehensive auditing of the crimes.
• Sentencing guidance to reflect freight crime as an aggravating factor.
• NPCC and police forces to agree on minimum standards of investigation and crime recording.
• Forces with significant transport routes or infrastructure to have freight crime on their strategic assessment.
• Industry standards for Haulage Exchanges and registry of hauliers – to prevent common load frauds
NaVCIS points to Operation Luminary as a recent example of its work in combatting freight theft.
The operation involved 18 months’ work, resulting in the arrest and jailing of three criminals for a range of offences related to the theft of lorries and trailers containing cargo to the value of over £1m.
NaVCIS said the methods used by the criminals were sophisticated and included the use of advanced technology such as scanners, key cloning equipment and tracker radios to trace vehicles and block communication signals.
The unit added that further successful prosecutions are in the pipeline.