IS ITALY WINNING THE FIGHT AGANST CARGO CRIME?

For a number of years, the jury has been out as to the level of cargo crime in Italy. While a high percentage of attacks on the supply chain are violent incidents involving major losses, the actual number of freight thefts reported in Italy remains only a fraction of the level suffered by many of its European neighbours. Still, however, many supply chain security professionals believe the number of losses in Italy reported to TAPA’s Incident Information Service (IIS) give only a partial picture of what’s happening across the country.

TAPA hopes to gain a better insight into the scale of the problem in March when its first conference of 2017 takes place in Milan and is followed by an Italian regional conference, bringing together a total audience of over 400 stakeholders from manufacturers, logistics service providers, law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and the insurance community. 

So, what do we know currently?

In 2016, Italy was the country with the fifth highest number of cargo crimes reported to TAPA in the EMEA region. Its 60 recorded incidents, however, almost pale into insignificance when compared to the 1,188 freight thefts in the UK, 572 incidents in the Netherlands and 304 and 196 losses reported in Germany and Sweden respectively. Thefts from supply chains in Italy though are not insignificant. Italy recorded the third highest number of major crimes – incidents with a value of €100,000 or more – and the total loss for the 51.7% of reported incidents with a value was €8,434,751, the second highest in EMEA, producing an average loss of €272,088.

With such high values of products being lost in Italy and with a known fraternity of organised criminals, it is difficult to accept that the 60 cargo thefts in 2016 tell the full story. Vigilant spoke to Franco Fantozzi, Lead of TAPA’s Italian Working Group to get a local perspective. He is in the group of people who believe freight crimes in Italy remain underreported.

“According to the latest figures from LEAs, it seems that the cargo crime phenomenon is decreasing but I think it is still underreported by TAPA members. Italian companies accept that cargo crime in Italy is a severe problem and for this reason the recourse to higher level security measures is increasing, such as the use of seals, geofencing, cargo monitoring systems and armed escorts. There is also an increase in the number of companies requesting that their transportation partner is TAPA-certified or is at least aligned with TAPA Standards,” he says.

The TAPA Italian Working Group has been steadily building relationships with all stakeholders over more than two years and also helping to raise the Association’s profile within the industry nationally and with law enforcement agencies. The regional conference in Milan next month will be the third to have taken place in Italy in the past four years and the events have each attracted between 100-200 delegates. Building a better understanding with LEAs is a critical step in helping to tackle cargo crime and in Italy, as elsewhere in Europe, it takes time to build a sufficient level of trust for police authorities to engage with TAPA. Once, however, they begin to appreciate working with the Association – particularly when it comes to sharing intelligence on cargo theft incidents – then the relationships usually go from strength to strength.   

Franco is keen to emphasise some of the tangible progress being made, stating: “LEAs in Italy recognise cargo crime as a major problem and for this reason an observatory has been established at Criminal Police Direction to focus on the issue and to involve the public and private sectors. Several initiatives are in place in relation to secure parking areas, the establishment of common standards to activate the relevant police unit and ways to respond efficiently to a request for assistance.”

Next month’s regional conference will help to maintain the momentum behind these various initiatives. As well as a full update on the work and progress of the TAPA Italian Working Group, delegates will hear speakers and panelists discuss:

·        Post-traumatic stress management for truck drivers who have been victims of cargo crimes and violent armed robberies

·        Secure parking areas in Italy

·        The regulatory framework for security escort services

·        Security initiatives implemented by service providers in the Italian transportation market

·        The revised 2017 TAPA Security Standards

Speakers at the event will include psychologist and psychotherapist Dr Nicole Scala as well as senior security managers from leading manufacturers and logistics service providers, and an audit body. A representative from the Polizia is also expected to join the conference.

There will be plenty to focus on. Even though the level of cargo crimes recorded in 2016 is modest compared to other parts of Europe, it still represented an 87.5% increase year-on-year.

Data just published in TAPA EMEA’s 2016 IIS Annual Report shows cargo losses in 14 regions in Italy headed by Lombardy, the scene of 12 incidents, Emilia-Romagna with 8, and Puglia with 6. “Lombardy remains the most targeted region due to the large presence there of logistic hubs and warehouses. In terms of the influence of organised crime, then Apulia and Campania are the regions where criminal organisations are involved in cargo crime. This situation has remained the same In the past 12 months,” says Franco Fantozzi.   

Products stolen in these attacks included regular targets for cargo criminals in Italy such as tobacco and pharmaceuticals as we as incidents involving losses of food & drink, car parts, tyres and agricultural materials.     

Across most of the EMEA region, Theft from Facility crimes are now only a fraction of all incidents but in Italy it’s still a type of incident that is regularly reported, seen in 25% of recorded thefts last year. Attacks on trucks while they are en route are just as popular.  

The IIS Annual report also shared intelligence on some of the tactics used by cargo thieves in Italy, which in the past 12 months has included:

  • Regular cases of roadblocks being created to stop cargo vehicles
  • Thieves posing as police officers to get trucks to stop
  • Deceptive Pick-ups by criminals posing as legitimate transport companies
  • Holes being cut through warehouse walls
  • Regular incidents in which drivers and other company employees are threatened with weapons
  • The use of GPS ‘jammers’ to block the monitoring of trucks after they have been hijacked and are being relocated by thieves to locations where the goods onboard are usually loaded onto a separate vehicle
  • Overnight thefts from trucks parked at Road Transportation Facility locations
  • The use of sophisticated decoding equipment to enter and start up unattended vehicles
  • The use of barbed wire to puncture the tyres of targeted commercial vehicles
  • Ramming the gates of secure facilities
  • Targeting Last Mile deliveries

TAPA’s strong focus on Italy in March will debate all of these factors – but it’s just another step in a long-term plan to replicate the stronger levels of incident reporting that has already been achieved in the UK, Netherlands, Germany and, most recently, Sweden. That means not only engaging with LEAs and industry but also ensuring they want to actively participate in TAPA in Italy and EMEA on a sustainable basis.

This objective remains at the forefront of the Working Group’s ambition. Franco adds: “Members of the Group are regularly meeting representatives of other companies, especially during the TAPA Standards training sessions conducted in Italian or at other specific events in order to develop the culture of improving security in the supply chain. Several of these companies have already decided to become TAPA members after having learned the advantages of joining from the Working Group. The objective, of course, is to increase the number of new members in Italy. Our previous regional conferences have reinforced the partnership between LEAs and private companies and have certainly given TAPA better visibility in Italy. We will continue to work together with LEAs and other public and private institutions in relation to secure parking areas, and we want to increase the level of participation in the Working Group from the fashion industry and the security sector. Following the conference, we will also be delivering further Italian language FSR and TSR training courses and organising specific workshops to support the development of IIS.”

As they say, particularly appropriately in this case; Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nonetheless, TAPA’s co-ordinated efforts and the hard work of its Working Group are starting to produce tangible results that will ultimately establish TAPA firmly in Italy once and for all. It may also provide a template on how to build the Association’s presence in other countries across EMEA where the under-reporting of cargo crime and a lack of intelligence is just as big a challenge as it is in Italy.