Edition 20 June 2017, by Manasa Bandaru
The number of cargo thefts from trucks in the past year increased significantly in the Netherlands. According to figures from the National Police Unit, the first quarter of this year alone saw a total of 81 cargo thefts take place. This is almost twice as much as a year ago – when there were 41 thefts. Police estimated the damage at around 350 million euros per year
Cargo theft criminals targeted many trucks especially in parking lots along the A73 and A67 in North Brabant and Limburg. Early this year, Venlo and Breda were the most popular locations for the cargo thieves to strike. Remarkably, around 100 thefts took place in the last quarter of 2016; this is more than the thefts, which took place in the first quarter of 2017. According to a spokesperson for the National Police Unit, foreign criminal gangs from Eastern European countries like Romania carry out these thefts. These gangs have been active in the Netherlands for a while now.
Cut Open Sail
Many of the cargo thefts occur at rest stops along the highway. Criminals try their luck at parking along the highway, where truck drivers spend the night. Often these thieves drive a stolen trailer truck from abroad. Then, they use knives to cut open the sail of semi-trailers in the parking or rest stop. If they find any valuables like electronics, they bring them into their own trailer and drive away.
The spokesperson of the National Police Unit says that these gangs are very professional. “They have been active in the Netherlands for a long time, without even once being caught red-handed.“ After the police received details about the activity of gangs, extra measures were taken to bring the situation under control. This has caused many of these criminals to leave Netherlands, according to the spokesperson, and a subsequent decrease in the number of robberies.
The decline in thefts, according to the police, is also partly due to the arrest of several perpetrators of cargo thefts last February. However, these arrests were of criminals from Buenos Aires. The police spokesperson said many cargo thieves traditionally come from that area. “If they remain under arrest, the number of thefts will drop a bit. However, once they are free, there will be an increase in thefts again. “
Moving Cargo Theft
Police have also been investigating a number of cases of the so-called ‘Moving Cargo’ thefts. In these thefts, the thieves work in gangs, with multiple cars. One vehicle is driven before the targeted truck at a reduced speed. When the truck consequently lowers it speed, another vehicle pulls up behind the truck and a thief robs the cargo from the truck.
Also behind the truck are a number of cars from the gang to keep the theft out of sight by other road users. The truck driver notices nothing about theft, but is only forced to drive slower because of traffic in front of him. However, the police do not have sufficient proof of such thefts taking place and are unable to implicate the perpetrators. Truckers now only need to make a phone call to report a theft Despite the considerable number of cargo thefts, not all carriers report these incidents as some business owners have lost confidence that the police will succeed in catching these criminals. Moreover, the drivers have to take time off work to go to police station and submit their statement. And if it is only a theft attempt, carrier drivers and owners do not see the benefit of declaring the incident. “It takes you a day,” said truck driver Leo Keijzer. “You are at the police station submitting your statement, it takes hours.”
Now drivers can call a special helpline and report a theft. By simplifying the steps to declare a theft, the police hope to increase the willingness of carrier drivers to report robberies. “In order to detect thieves, it is important that we hear when and where they operate,” says Gert Wibbelink of the National Police Unit. “Drivers can now declare without losing time, and the police will get a better picture.” Right now, a declaration of cargo theft through the special helpline can be done only in Dutch, but soon it is expected to be available in English and German because many truck drivers come from abroad.
Criminals are becoming more innovative: What can be done about it? Criminals are becoming bolder and more innovative in choosing their targets. Transport Risk Managers of ACE Group, a leading industrial insurance company, share some solutions and tips for the carrier owners to counter these robbery attacks. “Criminals are increasingly better prepared these days”, says Benoît Chasseguet, marine manager at ACE Continental Europe. “In the past, the thieves might have to get their information from a paid insider, but nowadays they are more likely to hack into the logistics system to see what is being transported, when and where.” Recent cargo thefts teach us that companies and their insurers have to work smarter than ever. In addition, it is important to protect computer systems from hackers. “
The use of GPS in vehicles has become commonplace, but so has the use of ‘jammers’ by criminals. These devices block the GPS signal and make it possible for criminals to make the truck ‘disappear’ from the tracking systems,” says Peter Kelderman, Senior Transportation Risk Manager at ACE. “To overcome this, we recommend the use of an additional hidden GPS equipment in the truck. When the truck is attacked and the main signal is disrupted, the vehicle can still be tracked. “ Because goods are vulnerable even when they are not traveling, companies should also consider security measures that can be taken on the location, such as surveillance cameras, 24-hour surveillance and alarm lines to police stations. “Such preventive measures can make a big difference. In addition, fewer claims will ultimately lead to lower premiums,” says Benoit. “Highways play a very important role,” says Benoit. “In Europe, there are few safe places where drivers can stop within an enclosed environment. There are few of these stops in Germany and some in France, but if you are transporting sensitive goods, then you really should not stop. That means you have to drive with two drivers, because a driver under EU rules should not sit behind the wheel for more than eight hours.”
Three valuable tips against cargo theft
1. Use the expertise of your insurance: it is in everyone’s interest to reduce the number of claims. Insurers give customers advice on issues such as the security of warehouses, logistics and the choice of carrier.
2. Secure your IT system: In the past, criminals often relied on a single source for the information they needed to intercept a shipment en route. Today, however, they use more hightech solution, thus protecting against computer hacking has never been so important.
3. Keep monitoring your suppliers: the strength of your supply chain is determined by the weakest link. Therefore subject the security procedures used by your suppliers, as well as your own, to critical examination. Companies and carrier owners can prevent and better prepare for theft attempts by identifying their business vulnerabilities and taking sufficient measures to counter and manage these risks.