Product at rest is product at risk

Published: Sunday, April 17, 2016

According to Transported Asset Protection Association’s (TAPA) incident information service, cargo crime in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) reached a five-year high in 2015. The association also maintained that 1,515 freight thefts were reported during the year, representing a 37.4% increase over 2014’s figures.
The rise in cargo crime could be attributed to several economic crimes and security factors. These factors are global and not limited to any particular region. This article ponders over the factors and the effect of global cargo theft.

According to Scott R. Dedic, Chairman, TAPA America’s organization, “On the economic side, inflation and recessions drive prices higher while keeping wages and earnings lower. This creates an opportunity for cargo thieves to target everyday household goods (diapers, baby food, groceries) to steal and resell on the grey and black markets. This explains why we see a rise in theft of these goods. From a crime and security perspective, politicians are slow to adapt to non-threatening crime trends and pass legislation that seeks to curb these trends. Also, shippers may become complacent over time and relax their security measures. Additionally, pressures from company management to reduce fixed costs often target security departments, especially if cargo losses have been lower than normal.”

Key groups

Efficient cargo security involves several key groups including shippers and industry, law enforcement and advocacy groups. Among these, the growing awareness of cargo crime is low among law enforcement agencies in the EMEA region, as well as greater compliance by police in the main European countries to share data with TAPA.

Mr. Scott Dedic added, “It is of utmost importance that the shippers and industry develop close associations with law enforcement groups as they both need to work together to investigate cargo crime and recover stolen property. Often, either side will see a cargo crime trend developing that needs to be shared with another party.’’

“In many instances, the cargo thieves steal from several shippers, so important elements of the crime such as the modus operandi can be easily determined. Sharing critical information between these different groups is also imperative in identifying the suspects and recovering the stolen items.”

Mr. Dedic also affirmed that advocacy and trade association groups act as the bridge between shippers and law enforcement groups. By offering a forum for bringing these groups together, they can also be the one group that elevates their concerns to the legislators and politicians. TAPA is now fostering closer relationships with law enforcements in different EMEA regions, where assaults on facilities and merchandise are high during transit. In 2015, the association organized conferences for supply chain stakeholders and law enforcement agencies in Germany, South Africa, Italy, the Netherland and Spain to talk about the rising challenges of cargo crime.’’

Data extraction

TAPA EMEA Chairperson Thorsten Neumann observed that the ways in which crimes are being reported have undergone a massive change. In 2015, TAPA received a record number of intelligence updates from police, describing this as ‘extremely encouraging,’ as it could help produce a more accurate picture of cargo crime in Europe, Middle East and African countries.

“We know that the number of cargo crimes reported by TAPA and others still only reflects what may be a relatively small percentage of overall cargo crime,” said Neumann. He added, “Often this is because freight thefts are recorded by law enforcement agencies only as commercial property or vehicle crimes, so it is hard to extract the data that specifically relates to supply chain losses.”

Unsecured parking locations

Most cargo crimes happen on vehicles at open parking places, such as motorways services, industrial states or lay-bys close to major highways, when drivers are required to take mandatory breaks.

Scott Dedic defined open parking locations as the shopping malls for cargo thieves by adding, “Product at rest is a product at risk. With a concentration of cargo delivery vehicles in a small area, many of which are left unoccupied by the drivers, cargo criminals see lots of opportunities. At any highway truck stops, it is very likely that the cargo criminals walk from trailer to trailer breaking the security seal to see what is inside the trailer until they find a cargo load that is desirable. They will identify the driver of that vehicle and keep him occupied inside the truck stop until they have either stolen the entire tractor and trailer or attached the trailer to their truck and leave the property.”

Black market

A black market specializes in rare goods – the goods which are really rare or hard to obtain for certain reasons. The establishments, dealing in such goods, are illegal for many reasons such as no trade license, criminal records of owners and traders and so on, making transactions illegal.

Mr. Dedic noted, “In the black market, stolen goods must pass through someone who will take the risk and sell these items to a third party. The first-line seller or ‘fence’ takes on a tremendous amount of risk in handling the selling of stolen goods. The ‘fence’ sells to a third party or several third parties who may or may not know that the items are taken. Because of the high risk of getting caught possessing stolen goods, the first seller has to sell them very quickly. Many times the cargo thieves have a buyer lined up before the goods are taken.

“Cargo thieves know what types of goods are desirable and can easily be sold on the black market. Knowing that they will look for those places where these kinds of products flow through, they will identify and target warehouses and truck stops where they establish surveillance on the vehicles and drivers. The cargo thieves can be patient and will look for the weak link in the supply chain. Once that weak link is identified, they will exploit it.”

Moreover, a black market is known to be a profession that provides income for local people. Political and social instability especially helps the trade to grow. Stronger legal penalties for cargo theft do reduce the number of people willing to become involved in cargo crime. As the demand exists, there will be those who will supply the goods, whether they are stolen or not.

Preventive measures

Safe and reliable cargo security programs are based on proven standards and preventative measures that are incorporated into the everyday business practices of the company. Cargo security is everyone’s responsibility, whether they work in shipping & receiving, human resources, procurement, security and IT.

Training and awareness efforts combined with documented and auditable company policies and procedures can build a solid cargo security foundation within any company. Developing these systems and implementing training programs are very cost-effective.

Becoming involved in regional cargo security initiatives and associations like the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) help to bring a ‘louder voice’ up to those in the government whose responsibility is to protect people and commerce. To control the incidents of theft, a stronger emphasis should be given to cargo security principles needed to be incorporated into all business practices.

Secondly, subcontracted carriers must be held fully accountable for the cargo they agree to haul. This can be accomplished by including a great security addendum in every contract with the carrier.
Lastly, penalties for cargo theft should be stiffened.