R62 million e-commerce sales related to spike in courier vehicle theft

September 14, 2020
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While the spike in online shopping has significantly boosted the e-commerce sector, there are widespread fears that criminals are growing accustomed to targeting courier vehicles which transport goods.

This week, a White Nissan X Trail hand-to-hand courier service RAM vehicle was robbed of the cell phones it was transporting in Radiokop, Roodepoort.

This was despite the Santam Insurance Group, who ensures many of the country’s courier vehicles, insisting to The Saturday Star this week that they did not experience a spike in the theft or hijacking of delivery vehicles.

The financial services company added that they also had not seen an increase in insurance claims for the theft of goods out of or with these courier vehicles.

But Budget Business Insurance told Business Tech that they have found an increase in theft of courier vehicles as a direct result of the increase in online shopping.

“We have noticed a spike in courier vehicle theft,” the financial firm’s Alex Terblanche was quoted as saying. He added that, in some instances, the vehicles were recovered, but the goods are were missing.

“The fact that the majority of these vans and vehicles are being taken by force or in armed robberies and hijackings is of great concern,” he told the online publication.

Experts on the matter are concerned about the impact these robberies will have on the country’s already ailing economy, as the local e-commerce industry’s estimated R62 million in revenue this year alone is under threat.

Amidst these concerns, trucking magazine Fleetwatch this week hosted a webinar relating to the increase in truck and delivery vehicle theft, particularly during the lockdown when an increasing number of people, who were confined to their homes for an extended period of time, took to the digital sphere to have their goods delivered to their houses.

The publication noted, since the dawn of democracy in 1994 when South Africa’s borders were open to trade, the country has been battling to fight against the scourge of hijackings.

During their digital stream, Fleetwatch also listed service delivery protests when trucks are inadvertently attacked and destroyed, as one of the threats to goods being safely delivered.

But a security expert, whose company regularly patrols the areas surrounding the Johannesburg CBD, believes that courier vehicle and truck drivers are considered an easy target for criminals as they are often unarmed and untrained.

“They are the easiest target at the moment because the drivers are just drivers,” the expert who wished to remain anonymous said.

But Gareth Newham, head of the governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), considers the spike in online shopping as the main culprit for courier vehicle robberies. “Many criminals and their networks are opportunistic and lookout for new targets,” he explained.

“During the lockdown, more people started using couriers to deliver shopping and products to them so as to avoid going out, and with a reduction in people moving around, courier vehicles would have been an obvious target.”

There is also a belief that the value of the goods that are being transported and delivered and which can easily be resold on the black market, as another factor contributing to the crime trend.

“If you look at the price of an iPhone, it’s worth the criminal stealing them, even if they get a few,” the security insider explained.

Newham conceded that courier vehicle theft is prevalent in big cities such as Johannesburg because these are the areas where the demand for delivered goods are the highest.

There is also a widespread belief that, like cash-in-transit heists, these robberies are not sporadic and are rather well orchestrated.

Most armed robberies of vehicles are planned to some extent, and often, the perpetrators of these crimes are targeting specific vehicles for particular reasons,” said Newham.

He advised courier and truck companies to unite against these incidents. “They should work together to record as much information on all armed robberies on their vehicles.”

“In this way, they will start to notice trends, patterns, hot-spots and the modus operandi of the criminals involved, and this will provide the information needed to identify specific measures to reduce the risk of becoming a target.”

Credit: Karishma Dipa as published on IOL

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