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Half of all HGV, freight and cargo crimes in 2020 occurred at unsecured road side parking, with almost a quarter taking place at motorway service areas (MSAs), according to the freight division of the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NAVCIS).

In its latest annual cargo crime report, NAVCIS revealed that the highest number of cargo thefts in 2020 was from trucks parked at the roadside, accounting for 50% of all offences, followed by MSAs at 22%, secure yards at 12% and truck stops at 7%.

Thurrock Services gained the dubious honour of being the most vulnerable MSA during 2020, the report said, accounting for 8% of all offences at MSA locations, followed by Clacket Lane Services, M25 (7%) and Toddington Services, M1 (4%).

A total of 76 offences occurred at Thurrock Services during 2020. Another repeatedly targeted location in the Essex force area was Birchanger Green Services, M11 which saw 43 offences. These two top locations accounted for 36% of all cargo crime offences within the Essex force area during 2020.

As a result Essex topped the list of counties with the most cargo crime, accounting for 7.5% of all cargo crimes, closely followed by Thames Valley at 7.3% and Kent at 6.3%.

Fuel was the most frequently stolen commodity at Thurrock Services during 2020, accounting for 7% of all cargo thefts, followed by clothing and shoes, which amounted to 5%.

The combined cost price value of goods stolen at MSAs during 2020 is £16.3m, the report said, with the highest value of goods stolen from an MSA at Warwick Services, M40 on 26 November 2020 which saw the theft of £1.7m of cosmetic goods.

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During 2020, the most frequently stolen commodity was fuel, accounting for 24% of stolen commodities overall, followed by tobacco cargo at (7%). The highest number of fuel thefts occurred during February 2020 (16%), with the majority of these occurring at roadside locations (81%).

Curtain trailers were the target of 46% of all offences. The report also identified seven repeat postcode locations for curtain slash offences, all at MSAs, with Birchanger Green Services being the most vulnerable.

The report warned that HGVs are being targeted in the main by organised criminal gangs “who see cargo theft as low risk and high reward".

It added: “Additionally, lack of provision of HGV parking nationally, particularly the lack of ‘secure’ truck parking, provides increased opportunities for thieves to target vulnerable vehicles.”

It called on MSA operators to consider increased security and cargo theft prevention solutions.

“For example adequate security fencing makes offender egress difficult and is unattractive to organised teams of thieves.”

It also urged operators to avoid using curtain siders or look at ways to improve the security of soft-sided trailers, such as using slash resistant tarpaulins and padlocks.

Other recommendations include planning journeys to include stops for breaks at secure parking places, training drivers to check tarpaulins at each stop, keeping parked trucks in locked, well-lit, secure facilities, ensuring drivers stay alert, particularly in high risk areas when parked, and using safe and secure parking whenever possible.