Figures from the national policing unit for heavy goods vehicle (HGV) crime reveal that in West Yorkshire alone, trucks and lorries are now being stolen at a rate of six per week – far higher than in any other part of Britain.
Road freight crime currently costs the UK more than £50m a year, and HGV thefts are on the increase across the country as gangs increasingly steal vehicles to order and to ship parts abroad.
But police admit they have no idea why West Yorkshire has seen such a massive spike in offences, soaring to 309 vehicle thefts last year, twice as many as in previous years and some 80 per cent higher than the next worst-hit area.
Other parts of Yorkshire are also experiencing serious problems. South Yorkshire had the seventh-highest number of truck thefts out of the 43 policing regions in England and Wales, while Humberside was 16th.
The figures are a fresh blow for the region’s multi-million-pound haulage industry, already reeling from a surge in thefts of fuel from HGVs as the value of diesel continues to soar.
Experts said the presence of major arterial routes through the region such as the A1, M1 and M62 was likely to be a key factor behind the crimewave, as gangs from across the country target vehicles passing through or based in this region.
Wakefield has been highlighted as being a particular hot spot for thieves, having suffered more HGV crime in the first three months of 2011 than any other postcode area in England.
The figures are contained in the latest reports from Truckpol, a branch of the national Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service which collates and analyses incidents of HGV crime.
“We have noticed a very big increase in thefts of vehicles in this region,” said Det Sgt Sue Coutts, who heads up the Truckpol unit. “It’s very difficult to say why – it’s something we are actively looking into.”
In 2008, there were 165 HGVs stolen in West Yorkshire, falling to 137 in 2009.
“These figures do generally present a very accurate picture,” Det Sgt Coutts said. “Unlike with some types of crime, the theft of an HGV does not really go unreported.”
The Road Haulage Association (RHA), which represents haulage firms across the UK, said criminal gangs both from within Yorkshire and from other parts of the country such as Merseyside were causing problems for firms operating locally.
Its head of security, Chris Rampley, said: “There is definitely a problem in Yorkshire. I’m aware of gangs around Leeds and Wakefield – they go up and down the A1 in particular looking for targets.”
Yorkshire’s police forces say they take the issue extremely seriously, and set up a cross-border regional roads crime team three years ago to help deal with the issue.
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “The regional roads crime team uses highly trained officers to deploy specialist skills and sophisticated technology to investigate road freight crime.”
Ms Rampley warned that comparative figures should be treated with caution, as some forces are better than others at passing on data to Truckpol.
However, she agreed that Wake- field in particular was a key hot spot for HGV crime.
The new Truckpol report for all HGV-related crime for the first quarter of 2011 reveals 44 trucks were attacked in Wakefield during the three-month period – more than anywhere else in the country.
Last month the Yorkshire Post revealed a nationwide surge in thefts of fuel from HGVs, with particular problems again across the Yorkshire region.
Thefts of HGVs in 2010 by police force area:
1. West Yorkshire – 309
2. Essex – 173
3. Thames Valley – 144
4. Metropolitan – 143
5. West Midlands – 141
6. Kent – 135
7. South Yorkshire – 127
8. Nottinghamshire – 101