Eastern European women and children trafficked to shoplift in the UK

Organised criminal gangs have been found trafficking women and children in the UK for large-scale shoplifting, exacerbating an alarming surge in retail crime, while a grim reality of human trafficking unfolds.


Women and children from Eastern Europe are being trafficked in large numbers to the UK, and put to work by organised crime gangs to carry out large-scale shoplifting operations. 

Police, and charities who work with vulnerable people, say many trafficked people are also pressganged into pickpocketing, begging and selling drugs; and that thousands more young asylum seekers who arrived in the UK unaccompanied are at risk of further exploitation by criminal gangs. 

In one high-profile case, authorities say an Eastern European criminal gang based in Glasgow has recruited 154 thieves since its discovery in 2019. The gang strategically targets retailers in major cities, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Darlington, and various locations across the North and Scotland.

The gang’s activities were first reported by BBC Scotland.

Non-profit organisation Retailers Against Crime (RAC) which detects and prevents criminal activity by sharing information among its members, told Euronews that they receive intelligence from partners about individuals that are committing high-value bulk thefts of various items. 

“The results from the reports show that these individuals are travelling country-wide committing crimes,” RAC said.

Epidemic of retail crime

Retail thefts are on the rise in the UK, with shoplifting up 25% year-on-year in England and Wales, while Scotland saw a 21% increase compared to the year before, according to a recent report by the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW).

“This 25% increase in shoplifting is further evidence that we are facing an epidemic of retail crime, which is hugely concerning,” USDAW General Secretary Paddy Lillis stated.

‘Our members have reported that they are often faced with hardened career criminals in the stores and we know that retail workers are much more likely to be abused by those who are stealing to sell goods on.’

Detective Superintendent Steven Bertram, leading the Police Scotland national child abuse investigation, emphasised their commitment to disrupt organised criminal activities, particularly those involved in human trafficking.

“These criminals are known to commit human trafficking, which is the illegal trade in human beings, both adults and children, for the purposes of commercial exploitation,” he told Euronews.

Criminal exploitation such as forced shoplifting, begging and selling of drugs made up just under 9% of modern slavery-related calls to the anti-slavery charity Unseen’s helpline.

Shoplifting costs UK retailers hundreds of millions

Whilst the statistics paint a grim picture of the increasing prevalence of shoplifting, the implications of this criminal enterprise reach beyond the immediate economic impact.

Although shoplifting is often seen as petty theft its increase has also meant higher costs for retailers with £953 million (€1.15 billion) lost in shoplifted goods in the UK last year.

‘‘More than not, [shoplifting] is linked to serious and organised crime with information being reported on a daily basis involving Organised Crime Groups travelling nationwide.’ the RAC told Euronews.

‘There needs to be a change in the way retail crime in particular shoplifting is perceived, and it simply must stop being swept under the carpet and portrayed as a petty crime.’

Why Eastern European women?

Primarily, those recruited by the Eastern European crime organisation in Glasgow were women, and also children, as they are usually seen as less suspicious by retail security.

Although UK nationals are the most commonly identified victims of modern slavery and human trafficking reported in Britain, they are followed by Albanians, Vietnamese and Romanians, many of whom are either here legally or have overstayed their visas.


The UK is an attractive place for many Eastern Europeans, with large established communities, and better pay and improved access to medical services, a recent report by the Home Affairs Committee on human trafficking stated, talking specifically about Romanian women being trafficked in the UK.

Romania, along with other Eastern European countries, has low wage levels, widespread poverty, limited access to higher education, and a lack of government support, particularly for single mothers making them more at risk. 

The National Crime Agency reports a 10.3% increase in referrals for modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK in 2022. Experts say this underscores the urgent need for comprehensive efforts to address the root causes and consequences of human trafficking.

Trafficking Children

Estimates suggest 27,000 children are at high risk of exploitation by organised crime gangs in the UK, with many being coerced using varying tactics to entrap them into committing crimes ranging from shoplifting to selling drugs.

“Criminals often use a range of tactics, exploiting children both online and offline,” Jess Edwards, Senior Policy Advisor for Childhood Harms at Barnardo’s, explained to Euronews. 


“Children can be approached on social media and gaming platforms, or in local areas, with offers of ways to earn some money.”

“In one case, a child was offered a Subway sandwich after not being able to afford lunch, and then was exploited into criminal activity to ‘repay’ the debt,” Edwards explained.

Many refugees and migrants coming to the UK are children separated from their families, leaving a large vulnerable group exposed, with 20% of referrals through Barnardo’s Independent Child Trafficking Service for criminal exploitation being children from abroad.

More than 4,000 unaccompanied child refugees have been placed in hotels in the UK since 2021. The ongoing risks faced by these vulnerable children include trafficking and exploitation for forced labour, and criminal activities.

Source link

#Eastern #European #women #children #trafficked #shoplift

AI is policing the package theft beat for UPS as ‘porch piracy’ surge continues across U.S.

A doorbell camera in Chesterfield, Virginia, recently caught a man snatching a box containing a $1,600 new iPad from the arms of a FedEx delivery driver. Barely a day goes by without a similar report. Package theft, often referred to as “porch piracy,” is a big crime business.

While the price tag of any single stolen package isn’t extreme — a study by Security.org found that the median value of stolen merchandise was $50 in 2022 — the absolute level of package theft is high and rising. In 2022, 260 million delivered packages were stolen, according to home security consultant SafeWise, up from 210 million packages the year before. All in all, it estimated that 79% of Americans were victims of porch pirates last year.

In response, some of the big logistics companies have introduced technologies and programs designed to stop the crime wave. One of the most recent examples set to soon go into wider deployment came in June from UPS, with its API for DeliveryDefense, an AI-powered approach to reducing the risk of delivery theft. The UPS tech uses historic data and machine learning algorithms to assign each location a “delivery confidence score,” which is rated on a one to 1,000 scale.

“If we have a score of 1,000 to an address that means that we’re highly confident that that package is going to get delivered,” said Mark Robinson, president of UPS Capital. “At the other end of the scale, like 100 … would be one of those addresses where it would be most likely to happen, some sort of loss at the delivery point,” Robinson said.

Powered by artificial intelligence, UPS Capital’s DeliveryDefense analyzes address characteristics and generates a ‘Delivery Confidence Score’ for each address. If the address produced a low score, then a package recipient can then recommend in-store collection or a UPS pick-up point. 

The initial version was designed to integrate with the existing software of major retailers through the API —a beta test has been run with Costco Wholesale in Colorado. The company declined to provide information related to the Costco collaboration. Costco did not return a request for comment.

DeliveryDefense, said Robinson, is “a decent way for merchants to help make better decisions about how to ship packages to their recipients.”

To meet the needs of more merchants, a web-based version is being launched for small- and medium-sized businesses on Oct. 18, just in time for peak holiday shipping season.

UPS says the decision about delivery options made to mitigate potential issues and enhance the customer experience will ultimately rest with the individual merchant, who will decide whether and how to address any delivery risk, including, for example, insuring the shipment or shipping to a store location for pickup.

UPS already offers its Access Points program, which lets consumers have packages shipped to Michaels and CVS locations to ensure safe deliveries.

How Amazon, Fedex, DHL attempt to prevent theft

UPS isn’t alone in fighting porch piracy.

Among logistics competitors, DHL relies on one of the oldest methods of all — a “signature first” approach to deliveries in which delivery personnel are required to knock on the recipient’s door or ring the doorbell to obtain a signature to deliver a package. DHL customers can opt to have shipments left at their door without a signature, and in such cases, the deliverer takes a photo of the shipment to provide proof for delivery. A FedEx rep said that the company offers its own picture proof of delivery and FedEx Delivery Manager, which lets customers customize their delivery preferences, manage delivery times and locations, redirect packages to a retail location and place holds on packages.

Amazon has several features to help ensure that packages arrive safely, such as its two- to four-hour estimated delivery window “to help customers plan their day,” said an Amazon spokesperson. Amazon also offers photo-on delivery, which offers visual delivery confirmation and key-in-garage Delivery, which lets eligible Amazon Prime members receive deliveries in their garage.

Debate over doorbell cameras

Amazon has also been known for its attempts to use new technology to help prevent piracy, including its Ring doorbell cameras — the gadget maker’s parent company was acquired by the retail giant in 2018 for a reported $1 billion.

Camera images can be important when filing police reports, according to Courtney Klosterman, director of communications for insurer Hippo. But the technology has done little to slow porch piracy, according to some experts who have studied its usage.

“I don’t personally think it really prevents a lot of porch piracy,” said Ben Stickle, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University and an expert on package theft.

Recent consumer experiences, including the iPad theft example in Virginia, suggest criminals may not fear the camera. Last month, Julie Litvin, a pregnant woman in Central Islip, N.Y., watched thieves make off with more than 10 packages, so she installed a doorbell camera. She quickly got footage of a woman stealing a package from her doorway after that. She filed a police report, but said her building’s management company didn’t seem interested in providing much help.

Stickle cited a study he conducted in 2018 that showed that only about 5% of thieves made an effort to hide their identity from the cameras. “A lot of thieves, when they walked up and saw the camera, would simply look at it, take the package and walk away anyway,” he said. 

SafeWise data shows that six in 10 people said they’d had packages stolen in 2022. Rebecca Edwards, security expert for SafeWise, said this reality reinforces the view that cameras don’t stop theft. “I don’t think that cameras in general are a deterrent anymore,” Edwards said.

The best delivery crime prevention methods

The increase in packages being delivered has made them more enticing to thieves. “I think it’s been on the rise since the pandemic, because we all got a lot more packages,” she said. “It’s a crime of opportunity, the opportunity has become so much bigger.”

Edwards said that the two most-effective measures consumers can take to thwart theft are requiring a signature to leave a package and dropping the package in a secure location, like a locker.

Large lockboxes start at around $70 and for the most sophisticated can run into the thousands of dollars.

Stickle recommends a lockbox to protect your packages. “Sometimes people will call and say ‘Well, could someone break in the box? Well, yeah, potentially,” Stickle said. “But if they don’t see the item, they’re probably not going to walk up to your house to try and steal it.”

There is always the option of leaning on your neighbors to watch your doorstep and occasionally sign for items. Even some local police departments are willing to hold packages.

The UPS AI comes at a time of concerns about rapid deployment of artificial intelligence, and potential bias in algorithms.

UPS says that DeliveryDefense relies on a dataset derived from two years’ worth of domestic UPS data, encompassing an extensive sample of billions of delivery data points. Data fairness, a UPS spokeswoman said, was built into the model, with a focus “exclusively on delivery characteristics,” rather than on any individual data. For example, in a given area, one apartment complex has a secure mailroom with a lockbox and chain of custody, while a neighboring complex lacks such safeguards, making it more prone to package loss.

But the UPS AI is not free. The API starts at $3,000 per month. For the broader universe of small businesses that are being offered the web version in October, a subscription service will be charged monthly starting at $99, with a variety of other pricing options for larger customers.

Source link

#policing #package #theft #beat #UPS #porch #piracy #surge #continues