The story behind the biggest cargo crime reported to TAPA EMEA’s Incident Information Service (IIS) in February reads like a Hollywood movie. It saw thieves in the United Kingdom escape with 15th and 16th century antique books valued at €2,347,879.

The incident on 12 February occurred at a Services 3rd Party Facility at London Heathrow where the books were being stored before being shipped to the United States. According to reports, the thieves were able to evade the building’s complex security system by climbing onto its roof, boring holes through a reinforced glassfibre skylight and abseiling 40 feet onto the interior floor of the premises. Once inside, they also managed to avoid the sophisticated motion sensor alarms in the facility before fleeing with 160 books.

Once again, this shows the growing level of sophistication and daring by cargo criminals in a month that also saw four Theft from Moving Vehicle incidents recorded by TAPA’s IIS; two crimes in North Brabant in the Netherlands targeting miscellaneous goods, a theft involving Computers/Laptops in Paris, and another loss of Computers/Laptops in Staffordshire in the UK.

After a record number of recorded cargo crimes in 2016, the IIS database is already showing signs that 2017 will set another new high. In the opening two months of the year, TAPA EMEA received reports of 382 new freight theft incidents, up 70.5% year-on-year. With most of this data continuing to come mainly from law enforcement agency partners in just two countries in EMEA – the UK and the Netherlands – the true picture for the entire region would be even more disturbing if incidents in other countries were being reported.

Information from TAPA’s Milan conference earlier this month reinforces this view. Italian law enforcement agencies cannot legally share incident data with organisations such as TAPA but presentations by Carabinieri and the National Traffic Police helped to reveal the gap between the number of crimes recorded by TAPA’s IIS and the police authorities. In the three years between 2014 and 2016, Carabinieri investigated over 2,500 truck thefts and more than 220 truck robberies. In addition, National Traffic Police, which patrol 7,000 kilometres of highways in Italy, recorded over 500 cargo crime events. To put this into context, in TAPA EMEA’s IIS Annual Reports for 2014, 2015 and 2016, the total number of reported incidents was 161. This situation is reflected in many other major parts of the region.

231 new crimes involving losses of over €8.3m

Figures for February 2017 show a total of 231 new cargo theft incidents recorded in the IIS database, 75% more than the 132 crimes in the same month of 2016.

In total, 126 or 54.5% of the February crimes reported a value, totalling €8,343,581 and producing an average loss for the month of €66,218. This included eight major incidents with a value exceeding €100,000.

Aside from the thefts of antique books in the UK, the other major losses were:


The theft of pharmaceuticals from an Authorised 3rd Party Facility in Florence, Italy, on 7 February after thieves used a ladder to climb the back wall of the building and break in via a top floor window.


Wine was the target in this Theft from Vehicle crime in the UK on 24 February. The thieves entered the secure yard of a logistics company and cut open the curtain sides of several trucks to steal products. Exiting the site, they drove a car at a driver who tried to prevent their escape.  


On 13 February, another incident at a secure parking location – this time in Armagh, Northern Ireland - saw the theft of trailers and soft drinks after thieves entered the site and stole the keys of two parked, unattended and loaded semi-trailers. 


Toddington Services on the M1 in Bedfordshire, UK, was the scene of this Theft from Vehicle on 2 February. The offenders cut open the curtain side of a semi-trailer to steal clothing products.


Another curtain cutting crime involving a parked and attended semi trailer at a secured parking site in Sheffield, UK, resulted in the loss of a shipment of tyres.


The day before the previously mentioned incident at the UK’s Toddington Services, another Theft from Vehicle crime saw the offenders steal assorted Clothing & Footwear products. Reports indicate the thieves cut the side of the trailer to see what was inside before breaking the seal and lock on its read doors.     


‘Curtain cutters’ were also at work in Purfleet, Essex, in the UK on 18 February, and escaped with a cargo of televisions from a truck that had stopped in an unsecured lay-by.

52 incidents with a value of between €50,000 and €100,000

In addition to these major losses, TAPA’s IIS recorded 52 crimes involving the thefts of goods worth between €50,000 and €100,000. 50 of these incidents took place in the UK.

In this loss category, the top 10 crimes were:

€99,639 – Theft of Vehicle in Grantham, UK, on 1 February and the theft of wine;

€99,166 – Fashion wear stolen from a truck in Milton Keynes, UK, on 13 February;

€96,472 – Another crime at the UK’s Toddington Services in Bedfordshire, this time resulting in the loss of car parts on 9 February;

€92,924 – Tyres stolen from a truck at an unsecured parking location in Purfleet, Essex, UK, on 1 February;

€92,606 – On 2 February, Clothing & Footwear was stolen from a truck at an unsecured parking location in Bicester, UK;

€91,766 – A shipment of ladies shoes stolen after offenders cut the locks and seals of a truck at an unsecured parking location in Kettering, UK;

€91,322 – Men’s clothing was the target in this crime on 1 February. It occurred in another unsecured parking place, this time in Grays, Essex, in the UK; 

€86,639 – Car Parts were stolen from a vehicle parked in a lay-by in Witham, Essex, UK, on 14 February; 

€84,479 – A Theft from Trailer crime in Malmo, Sweden, on 5 February saw thieves escape with over 1,650 shirts from an unlocked trailer;

€ 80,539 – A cargo of alloy wheels was stolen when criminals attacked another truck at an unsecured parking location in the UK. This crime took place in Cambridge.

Other types of products targeted in this loss range included motocross bikes, gas heaters, hair dryers, sports shoes, electric lawnmowers, beauty products and fragrances, food and drink, central heating boilers, televisions,  rechargeable batteries, fireworks, mints and confectionary.  

UK and Netherlands record 84.3% of crimes

During the month, TAPA received reports of cargo thefts in 11 countries in EMEA. The United Kingdom with 124 and Netherlands with 71 accounted for 84.3% of all crimes. Once again, Sweden and Germany made up the incidents ‘top 4’ with a further 17 and 11 recorded incidents respectively. 

TAPA’s IIS recorded losses in 14 of its product categories. Four of these saw 10 or more incidents:

  • Food & Drink – 31 (13.4%)
  • Clothing & Footwear – 18 (7.8%)
  • Furniture/Household Appliances – 15 (6.5%)
  • Cosmetics & Hygiene – 10 (4.3%)

Theft from Vehicle and Unsecured Parking dominate types and locations of crimes

Unsecured Parking was the type of location reported in 168 or 72.8% of crimes in February, far ahead of the 16 or 6.9% of incidents at Secured Parking places and the 12 or 5.2% of thefts that occurred at Origin Facility locations.

In the same way that Unsecured Parking continues to dominate the ‘location’ category, Theft from Vehicle is an even more regular type of incident. Last month, it was stated in 181 or 78.4% of the 231 incidents reported to TAPA EMEA. The top five types of incident involved trucks, representing 95.3% of the total.

Intrusion was the most recorded modus operandi and was mentioned in 169 or 73.2% of February’s incidents. The IIS database also captured information on seven crimes with an M.O. of Violent or Threat with Violence; two in Germany, two in South Africa and single cases in the Netherlands, Nigeria and Sweden. The products targeted in these attacks included phones, tobacco, electronics products and diesel.