The criminal appeal of vulnerable vehicles

As fuel prices have risen there has been a marked and noticeable increase in the theft of fuel. TruckPol part of the ACPO Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (AVCIS) that specialises in freight crime, has received mounting reports of this type of offence, both from vehicles parked at the roadside and in secure parking areas, such as company compounds.

So far this year (up until the end of September) 1,228 instances have been reported to TruckPol; this is a significant increase in comparison to previous years. However, TruckPol do not believe this is the full picture as many cases go unreported. And, as fuel prices continue to inflate, TruckPol is predicting that offences will escalate.

A national problem
In relation to the crime hotspots, TruckPol’s statistics show that fuel theft is country wide; however, vehicles parked overnight in lay-bys on arterial routes such as the A14, A50, A34, A43 and A1 are in the main being targeted. This is not to say that vehicles parked at service stations, industrial estates and in company compounds are any less vulnerable as intelligence suggests that fuel theft is both an organised and opportunist crime.

With diesel from freight vehicles a prime target, this of course has a knock-on effect on the economy, but both TruckPol and regional police forces are working hard to combat this. Derbyshire in particular have been proactively patrolling the A50 checking lay-bys throughout the night in an effort to both catch and deter fuel thieves; as a result they stopped a suspicious van which was found to contain three bulk containers about to hold 1,000 litres, various hoses and pumps, together with evidence of diesel. The driver was subsequently arrested and his vehicle seized.

Protect yourself
With fuel prices at an all-time high, motorists are advised to be extra vigilant and to park in a well-lit area. Lorries should be parked fuel tank to fuel tank to make access more difficult, or with the tank facing the road, using passing traffic as a deterrent. Alternatively, using an anti-siphoning device or installing CCTV in company compounds should be considered, as well as ensuring that any suspicious behaviour is reported to the police to assist in driving down this type of offence.

Further tips to avoid fuel theft include:

  • Park in a well lit and populated area.
  • Park close to other lorries, fuel tank to fuel tank, making it more difficult for offenders to access them.
  • Park with your fuel tank facing the road so passing traffic makes it less of a target.
  • Consider using an anti-siphoning device.
  • Consider using CCTV.
  • Ensure that you report any suspicious incidents/behaviour to the police.

Robbery Offences
Robbery offences are shown as increasing. In the first two months of the year, a noted rise
in attacks on vehicles transporting easily disposable goods, such as cigarettes and alcohol indicate criminal targeting of cash-generating product. These loads are often in transit to small retail units.

The offenders in these cases often travel in groups of four or five individuals and will follow the victim vehicle for some miles before launching an attack. They will either attack the vehicle whilst the driver is carrying out a delivery, forcing entry to the rear of the vehicle, or will ‘jump’ the vehicle whilst the driver is still inside. The offenders are extremely persistent and will travel many miles in order to get the result they require. They may travel in convoy with other offenders and often use a white Transit-sized vehicle for ferrying contraband.

Criminals are becoming increasingly violent towards drivers in order to get hold of the load. TruckPol urges companies to ensure all their drivers are made aware of the problem and that they could potentially be being followed, or monitored. Companies should instruct drivers to take note of the vehicle behind, and, if it is has been persistent for some miles and they are suspicious – then they should drive to a safe, built-up area, and call their dispatcher/control room. If there is any degree of concern – a call to the police is essential. Drivers should note down, where possible, registration numbers, circumstances and locations of suspicious vehicle activity and inform TruckPol.

TruckPol has made its colleagues nationally aware of the problem and all police forces should have a trigger plan in place to instigate should a Robbery be reported.

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