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Freight crime on Europe’s roads almost doubled in the third quarter of the year, according to new data released by FreightWatch International (FWI).

The security intelligence company recorded an 89% increase in incidents compared with the third quarter of 2014, with criminals also showing a growing willingness to use violence.

“Whereas violent tactics were usually confined to certain countries (France, Italy, Russia, South Africa), FWI noticed a worrying trend in the third quarter of 2015. This seems to indicate that criminals are using violence even in places where it is not a usual feature of cargo theft—such as Germany, where two truck robberies were reported in which drivers were injured, or the UK, where five hijackings were reported in third quarter of 2015 alone compared with just two in the whole of 2014,” it said.

Altogether, 443 incidents were reported to FWI during the period, with the most in Germany. Its 98 crimes made up almost a quarter of the European total, followed by the UK and Belgium.

And theft of food and beverages has overtaken electronics to become the most stolen cargo category, with clothing and shoes coming third.

It would appear that the majority of freight crime remains opportunistic, with pilferage from trailers the most common form – principally at unsecured parking facilities or motorway service stations; mostly at night while the driver slept and achieved by cutting the canvas or breaking open the back door.

The second highest category of crime was facility theft – burglaries from warehouses – followed by full truckloads. In fourth place were hijackings, which numbered 43, around 10% of all crimes, with France seeing the highest number in the period, followed by Italy and Spain.

However, the report does single out rising violent crime in the UK, which saw just two violent attacks on drivers during the whole of 2014, compared with the five attacks during the third quarter of this year alone.

The report says: “While there is some way to go until the UK matches countries such as Italy and Spain, this is a very worrying trend, as violence has been largely absent from the UK cargo theft scene until now.

Two incidents occurred in north-west England and the remaining three occurred in the West Midlands, with attacks on drivers at unsecured parking increasing in these areas; a trend FWI expected to be mirrored nationwide “due to the evenly spread risk zones along major motorways.

“In many cases, the drivers are assaulted after checking on a noise heard around their shipment, while parked in an unsecured parking area. FWI SCIC recommends avoiding unsecured parking areas or lay-bys. If no secure parking is available, park at a heavy-traffic area with CCTV and the ability to restrict access to the shipment, eg reversing close to a bollard in a hard-body trailer.”

It also notes, rather bizarrely, that while electronics are a favourite of criminals throughput Europe, in the UK they make up just 3% of stolen goods, with household goods much more favoured.

“UK cargo criminals are stealing items that many UK citizens would normally purchase at supermarkets or similar (home & garden, clothing & shoes, food & drinks, and personal care combined were 44% of the total theft types, and 75% of single product type thefts). This risk is a unique fixture of the UK cargo theft market, and the trend appears to be solidifying as time goes on.”

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