Lorry drivers have been warned to be on their guards after £50,000 of cheese was stolen from a motorway service station.
The trailer filled with precious dairy cargo was taken from Strensham services, near Cheltenham on the M5 on Friday.
It comes as gangs target service stations – with an estimated loss of £1.35million at Frankley, Strensham, Telford and Hopwood over the past few years.
And police fear these attacks will only ramp up as demand booms on the black market while Christmas approaches and as families feel the cost of living crisis pinch.
Detective Sergeant Andrew Farmer of the Field Intelligence team in South Worcestershire said: ‘The majority of these thefts are linked to an organised crime gang in West Yorkshire that has been operating for decades as well as ones in the West Midlands and Merseyside who see it as a ‘low-risk high reward’ enterprise.
The trailer filled with precious dairy cargo was taken from Strensham services (pictured) near Cheltenham on the M5 on Friday
‘We recognise there is an increased demand for black market goods, perhaps because of inflation rises and the cost-of-living crisis but items that have literally ‘fell off the back of a lorry’ are of course illegal and acquiring them this way simply fuels more freight crime.
‘We continue to work collaboratively with partner forces to tackle these crimes as part of Operation Yard, which sees officers deter criminal gangs from targeting delivery lorries by ensuring police are present in hot-spot areas, especially during the evenings, and issue security advice to lorry drivers.’
Police say gangs are targeting products that can quickly be resold, like toys, food, white goods, and perfumes, as officers have seen 140 such crimes in just West Mercia this year – almost double last year’s total of 83.
While another containing washing powder and other household goods was taken from the Hartlebury Trading estate near Kidderminster on November 26.
Detective Constable Dan Griffiths of the West Mercia Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) added: ‘These high value acquisitive crimes relate to all products that go into the supply chain, be they white goods, groceries, retail items or raw materials, so their theft ultimately affects all of us.
‘There’s a reputational impact on large carriers too if their lorries are getting raided as they will lose custom, as well as insurance premiums go up and stock missing from our supermarket shelves, so any additional costs in the chain will eventually get passed on to the customer.
‘I would encourage people to be vigilant about ‘freight crime’. If you are at a motorway service station for example, and you think you see something suspicious, please report it to us.
It comes as gangs target service stations – with an estimated loss of £1.35million at Frankley, Strensham, Telford and Hopwood over the past few years. Pictured: Strensham services
‘To road hauliers we advise that before starting your journey, decide where you are going to park overnight and use a secure overnight lorry park.
‘Park your lorry where you can see it. Park with the loading doors close to another vehicle or wall. When returning to your lorry, check for signs of any interference. Record your check on a checklist.’
PC Mike Dawber, a Field Intelligence Officer on the Freight Desk at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) said: ‘NaVCIS is here to map cargo crimes more accurately such as curtain slashes and trailer thefts and we receive more than 5,000 notifications about such offences annually, but we are pleased to report there have been two big steps forward in the last 12 months.
‘Firstly, the UK needs to adopt a UK secure truck parking standard via the British Parking Association’s implemented scheme ‘Park Mark Freight’ and ten sites are now accredited in the country. NaVCIS is looking at this with West Mercia Police for sites in their force area.
‘Secondly, there is £52.5million of government money being promised to improve driver welfare facilities such as showers and toilets and security such as CCTV, barrier access, lighting and fencing at existing truck parks and motorway services which is match-funded, meaning it is a potential overall investment of £105million.
‘I’m also pleased to report that there is good policing work going on nationally that has seen 56 arrests made in October alone for cargo crimes.’