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Throughout last year, the type of cargo routinely stolen swung away from electronics and luxury items, “more towards essential goods” such as food, drink and fuel.

However, this year, that trend appears to have reversed, to “a more ‘normal’ demand,” according to TT Club’s MD loss prevention, Mike Yarwood.

It’s a development arising from less widespread deprivation than in 2020, as thieves “serve a market and react to market forces”, he said.

“Food and beverages were certainly there last year, electronics appears to have jumped in frequency,” said Mr Yarwood. “The unprecedented disruption through 2020 resulted in criminal focus switching from luxury items and electronics towards essential goods (like food and beverages).

Despite the contrast between the lockdown conditions of last year and the more free-moving environment of 2021, leading to some startling crime statistics, the apparent rocketing of freight theft this year is actually closer to a return to form, than a long-term increase, he explained.

“As an aside, in the UK at least, so far this year the frequency and value of cargo theft appear to be slightly down year on year to date.”

Indeed, Q3 crime stats globally imply that a sudden massive crimewave – well in excess of the usual pre-festive season spike – would be necessary even for 2019 theft trends to be resumed. But Mr. Yarwood implied that this may yet materialise.

“I am hearing there are an awful lot of cases occurring in this fourth quarter, so it will be interesting to see where we are at the end of the year.”

In North America last year, pharmaceuticals became a more pronounced target for thieves, “and didn’t in other regions,” Mr Yarwood said.

“On my list of metrics to consider early in 2022 is certainly to understand whether there was a spike in 2021 in all regions, illustrating that thieves targeted pharma cargo. My initial thoughts would be around connections with the Covid-19 vaccines.”

But in general, disrupted supply chains present a major opportunity for thieves – a trend that shows no sign of abating in 2022, particularly across Europe, he said.

“In terms of [cargo] ‘at rest’, we could draw in on general volumes shipped (which appear to be up), those shipments that are delayed through congestion and are perhaps held in container depots and terminals for a greater period of time than planned. The potential impact on security comes when those depots or indeed truck stops reach peak volumes and beyond.”

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