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The displacement effect in cargo theft

Daniel Ekwall (School of Engineering, University College of Borås, Borås, Sweden)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Article publication date: 30 January 2009




The aim of this paper is to analyze and explain why cargo theft continues to occur in the transport network despite all implemented countermeasures.


The research is based on a logical deductive hypothesis using theories from several scientific fields. This hypothesis is then tested empirically. Credibility is substantiated with the use of several independent official statistical sources and verified with both open‐ended qualitative interviews and a quantitative, comparative, geographically controlled survey.


Theft risk arises from different theft opportunities that will always be present in the transport network. The theory of crime displacement provides one likely explanation as to why the absolute reduction, instead of a theft pattern alteration, is very difficult to achieve. The result in this paper substantiates research results in criminology that indicate that causality in crime displacement is hard to establish.

Research limitations/implications

This research is limited by the lack of reliable information sources about criminal activities against logistics business. Secondary sources, like official crime statistics, are at best untrustworthy but more likely filled with large parts of hidden statistics.

Practical implications

The common‐sense feeling about the crime displacement theory that exists in the logistics business needs to be modified. This paper maintains that the understanding of the relationship between potential perpetrators and theft preventing measures is a key issue to reduce theft problems within the transport network.


This paper is a step towards bringing theories from criminology into the scientific field of logistics and supply chain risk management.



Ekwall, D. (2009), "The displacement effect in cargo theft", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 47-62.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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