Dr. Daniel Ekwall from Sweden is a well-known researcher in the field of supply chain security, including in cargo theft with the many curiosities linked to it. In this interview Daniel shares his views on crime displacement – i.e. what may happen when security is increased in one spot of a supply chain – both from theoretical and from practical perspectives. Within the CORE-project this is relevant information at least for the Risk-cluster, and for WP19 on education and training.
According to Barr and Pease (1990) and Hakim and Rengert (1981), the theory of crime displacement recognizes following six types of displacements: (i) Temporal – change of time when offenders carry out a crime; (ii) Spatial – switch from targets in one location to another; (iii) Target – change of type of target; (iv) Tactical – use of alternative method; (v) Offense – switch from crime to another; and (vi) Offender – a new offender takes a place of arrested or deterred earlier offender. Daniel, can you please share first your views on such theories per se?
The theory of crime displacement is a very interesting theory. Before I go into details about potential displacement, it is important to understand that this is a theoretical concept which is based on three assumptions. First, “Crime displacement assumes that crime is inelastic”. This assumption indicates that the demand for crimes is unaffected by preventive efforts. This is of cause not true, but it is also important for this assumption to point out that professional criminals are more inelastic, while opportunistic criminals are more elastic. Secondly, “The perpetrator has mobility”. This assumption indicates that the perpetrator has flexibility relative to time, place, method and the type of crime committed. This is also not really true. Last, “There exists unlimited numbers of alternative targets”. Finally, this is also not true as their always will be limitations as the number of targets is limited in one way or another.
To sum up the assumptions, preventive efforts effect the criminal behaviours more on an opportunistic perpetrator than on professional and the limitations in number of potential targets constrains this even more. The theory of crime displacement is very tempting to refer to when reviewing large data set, were the assumptions are better fulfilled than on a more localized level were a number of potential perpetrators actually have full mobility, while the number of targets is more limited. On the other hand, security professionals normally agree that security efforts lead to crimes moving, altering and changing pattern. We really need to understand that the crime free society will never exist in practice, but we can reduce both the occurrence and also the effects from crimes.
Daniel, can you next consider crime displacement in a more practical context, say from the viewpoints of logistics operators? Any trends you have observed particularly in the European Union?
Talking about crime displacement within logistics and transport on a large scale, I must point out a few the more obvious changes in modus operandi for perpetrators. The first is that terminal security has received a lot of attention during the last decade. We have the TAPA FSR (freight security standard) and also the EU AEO-S (authorized economic operator – security and safety) which address the security at a terminal building. Both these programs are more than just security for a building, but nevertheless they focus on terminals as one of the weak points in the supply chain. From a crime displacement standpoint, this would lead to that the problem moves away from terminals and out on the roads. From common sense reasoning, this is correct, and this development is also possible to see in large datasets for cargo thefts. But a closer review of the data shows that it is more the small (less value is stolen in each incident) that have changed location, whiles the big hits seems to be less effected by the increased security.
Secondly, we have the increase of violence in cargo theft. This follows the general trend in changes in criminal behavior on an EU wide basis as crimes of aggression become relatively more common and property crimes become less common. Furthermore, in logistics this trend has been described as “The criminal organisations seem to react to the increase security with more aggressive methods” or “some perpetrators respond to sophisticates transport security measures by increasing their use of unsophisticated and brutal violence against drivers and terminal personnel”. In statistics about cargo theft, it is possible to see that when a violent modus operandi is used, the stolen value is several times higher than with a normal non-violent attack.
The third trend is the changes in what is stolen. As the criminals normally not do steal for their own consumption, they become more interested into what a larger market wants. This leads to that the same products that consumers really want to buy also become more interesting for the criminals. There has been a lesser change in the type of products that are stolen from the transport network. This correlates with the fact that it is not the thieves but the buyers of stolen products that govern the choice of target, while it is the potential perpetrators that decide where and how to acquire the products.
Another interesting finding in cargo theft is that difference between US and Europe as according TAPA IIS statistics, cargo thefts seems to be a weekend crime in the US but a weekday problem in Europe. I have no clear explanation about this difference at the moment but it is possible that the reason for this difference is found in the reporting incentives rather than be a difference in actual criminal pattern. Also it is possible that differences in transport and logistics behavior between US and Europe generate some difference for the potential cargo thefts.
Thanks a lot Daniel for sharing these insights. When considering all these crime displacement scenarios and realities, what kind of greetings could you send to supply chain security policy makers, regulators, enforcement agencies, supply chain operators as well as security service providers?
In general, crime displacement provides an interesting basis for discussion but the common-sense feeling about the crime displacement theory that exists in the logistics business needs to be modified. For the practical theft prevention in transport and logistics, the total displacement idea seems useful, but in reality, it is more useful for the locals to understand and know about modus operandi, perpetrators’ motivations, etc. in order to introduce the right theft prevention features which are aimed against to local criminals.
Next, consider the increase of violence very serious as it is likely that we will see more beaten up drivers in the future but also the use of heavier weapons, including machine guns, in attacks against both terminals and trucks. Another thing that may or may not increase is different types of fraudulent modus operandi as internal thefts, bogus companies (both in the supply chain but also in the transport/logistics industry) and fake products. Each one of these modus operandi more or less calls for different preventive measures.
The last thing I would like to stress is the fact that the risk for cargo thieves to get convicted is about 2%, according to EU statistics. This leads to that in order for the different Law Enforcement Agencies in EU to increase the overall risk for the perpetrators, it is more important to increase the risk of getting convicted than to increase the potential punishment. To do this, all actors need to collaborate more together, both industry and governments, in order to best reduce threats towards the transport and logistics functions, which is “the blood vain” of the free internal EU market.
- Ekwall, D. (2009), “The displacement effect in cargo theft”. International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management, Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 47-62
- Ekwall, D. (2010), ”On analyzing the official statistics for antagonistic threats against transports in EU: a supply chain risk perspective”. Journal of Transportation Security, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp 213-230
- Ekwall, D. and Lantz, B. (2013), “Seasonality of cargo theft at transport chain locations”. International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management, Vol. 43, No 9, pp. 728-746
- Ekwall, D. and Lantz, B. (2015), “Cargo theft at non-secure parking locations”. International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, forthcoming.