Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist

Cargo thefts shift from electronics to food – report

These groups, according to the report, frequently target the N12 road in Western Cape and N3 road in Gauteng.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a shift in the freight and warehouse theft patterns, with the cargo of choice shifting from electronic goods to food, beverages and medical supplies, due to the high demand and rise in value.

According to a report by international freight transport insurer TT Club and business improvement company BSI, during lockdowns food prices spiked due to disruptions in production and transportation and individuals stockpiled food due to lockdowns. In the second quarter of this year, thieves more frequently stole food and beverage products and medical supplies, a shift from the incidents recorded in the first quarter involving thieves targeting electronic products.

“The increase in the value of food may explain the increase in theft during Q2 2020 when lockdowns occurred. On a similar note, medical supplies, which can include test kits, hand sanitisers, respirators, and personal protective equipment, were a high-value commodity during the Covid-19 outbreak,” the report states.

Also, likely due in part to Covid-19 restrictions, the strategies employed by thieves shifted slightly from the historical prevalence of violent hijackings to increased incidents of theft from warehouses, depots, and other facilities.

Restrictions prohibited free movement, for example, but the threat of cargo thefts increasingly involved cargo trucks left unattended overnight and facilities, like warehouses and depots. What has not changed, though, is that SA remained a top hotspot for cargo crime and accompanying violence, as well as the ingenuity of those involved, the underpinning motivations, and the lengths that they are prepared to go to avoid capture.

To hit a depot or warehouse, thieves must conduct a great degree of planning and intelligence gathering and carrying out a successful theft of cargo from a facility generally requires intricate details of security provisions, patrols, entry and exit points and the operations on-site.

The report notes that thieves may take advantage of any vulnerabilities to complete a theft, including corruption by customs and police officers, as well as cops amenable to bribes and facilitation payments.

In many of the cargo theft incidents seen in South Africa, sophisticated cargo theft groups, known as “blue-light gangs”, employ cargo theft tactics involving corrupt law enforcement officers forcing cargo truck drivers to stop in unsecured locations at checkpoints established by corrupt police officers working with thieves.

These groups, according to the report, frequently target the N12 road in Western Cape and N3 road in Gauteng. The second half of this year has seen an increase in cargo theft in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Between the first two quarters of 2020, cargo thefts increased also in the Western Cape.

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