Attacked on the job: Are online orders putting our delivery drivers in danger?

The pandemic has changed our shopping habits over the last year, resulting in more online purchases and more home deliveries.

But, for those delivering, it also means a rise in attacks.

Palakdeep Singh Nangla started working as a delivery driver in the West Midlands during the pandemic.

Last October, just two weeks after he started his new job, he was targeted in Smethwick.

Courier drivers work against the clock to make sure all of their deliveries are made.

Palakdeep says that the time pressure, and his lack of experience, meant he was rushing to finish his round and, to save time, he left his key inside his van.

"I think he was following me so he knew I was leaving the key inside the van", explains Palakdeep, "I think he was walking for 5 or 10 minutes behind me."

Palakdeep says he was delivering a parcel to a house just meters away when he saw a man, who had his whole face covered with a black mask, getting into his van.

He tried to catch him - desperate to protect his parcels and his livelihood - but he says the driver "knew what to do" and sped away.

Between October and January there were almost 300 attacks on delivery drivers in the West Midlands. Credit: West Midlands Police

There were almost 300 attacks on delivery drivers in the West Midlands between October 2020 and January 2021.

The rise in attacks, since the start of lockdown, led West Midlands Police to launch 'Operation Lively'.

The force worked with courier companies, food delivery services and supermarkets to raise awareness, gather intelligence and identify areas where attacks were high.

More officers were then sent to patrol in 'hotspot' areas, such as Walsall.

Mark Silvester, the Design Out Crime Manager at West Midlands Police, says the majority of the attacks were "opportunistic thieves".

But, he adds, organised crime "can't be ruled out".

Mark says drivers shouldn't be worried but they should be aware of their surroundings, especially "if they're entering unfamiliar areas" or if they see "people hanging around or vehicles following them".

The Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner in the West Midlands, Waheed Saleem, says there were a number of reports of drivers being attacked for their keys or parcels as they went between their van and people's homes.

He says: "What we've seen is a spike in attacks on delivery drivers. These attacks are thefts of vehicles, thefts from vehicles, but also violence as well."

Waheed explains how if the drivers confronted the thieves they were often met with violence too.

"The majority of the MO was opportunistic, but we saw drivers being attacked and sustaining injuries because they were trying to stop people taking their van" says Waheed.

"One driver tried to stop his van being taken and he was run over."

  • Palakdeep has a message for the thieves

Police say a number of arrests were made during Operation Lively and they are now continuing to work with courier companies to reduce the number of attacks.

Unbeknown to the thief, Palakdeep had a tracker fitted in his van and with the help of his manager he was able to locate it.

But hundreds of other drivers haven't been so lucky.

I'm a delivery driver - How can I stay safe?

  • Always take your key out of the ignition

  • Always lock your van

  • Install a vehicle tracker and a dashcam

  • Keep your key on a keychain

  • If people need to pay, take prepayments or use card/contactless payments

  • Be aware of your surroundings and anyone acting suspiciously

  • If something doesn't look or feel right do not make the delivery

I often order online - How can I help keep my delivery drivers safe?

  • Keep orders to a minimum

  • Be vigilant if you're expecting a delivery

  • Call the police is something looks suspicious

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