How to stop travelling crime

Crime in Road Freight Transport
Page 64 

Opening European borders to trade and travellers has also cleared the roads for travelling criminals. Road transport crime is a serious and growing problem. In some European countries up to 1% of goods vehicles are stolen each year; that is, tens of thousands of commercial vehicles, costing many millions of euros. For the past seven years, the trend has been increasing by up to 50% for some countries, and focusing on high-tech cargo. According to a recent survey over a period of 15 months, computer equipment and related peripherals, or mobile telephones, constituted the highest number of goods stolen during transport, and 25% of these were from hijacked vehicles.

The impact of freight theft in Europe over the last few years has been so financially damaging to high-tech companies that they have formed the Technical Asset Protection Association (TAPA). It is the European branch of an organisation started in the US by Compaq and Intel in 1997, and now includes most big-name technology shippers. Frustrated with the perceived lack of police support and concerned about the losses their companies are suffering, technology shippers are working together to prevent the rising number of thefts from vehicles transporting their products in Europe, and from warehouses.

This ECMT report provides comparative statistics on the theft of goods and goods vehicles, and proposes other ways of improving security for road freight vehicles. It focuses on crime-fighting aids, from sirens to ultrasonic or movement sensors, and describes high-tech locks, from air brake immobilisers to a driver recognition system that works off a smart card; without the correct electronic chip, the vehicle cannot be moved, despite unlocked doors and keys left in the ignition. After-theft systems include homing devices, tracking systems and “remote degrading”, the gradual loss of functions of the vehicle in response to abnormal conditions.

But in compiling the report, it became clear that these aids were only a part of the solution. The human element, including the manufacturers, shippers and customs authorities, must also be held responsible. This applies also to cross-border problems of immigration and transport fraud, as well as the events of 11 September, and are issues for further research.

©OECD Observer No 231/232, May 2002

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