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Cargo Thieves Grow More Innovative and Organized

Volume 2, Issue 13
July 15th, 2014
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chain-and-lockCargo theft in the United States may not be on the rise, but thieves are becoming more sophisticated and better organized, according to reports from two top logistics security firms.

For 2013, the nation saw 951 cargo thefts – the same amount recorded in 2012 and tying that year for the highest level of theft incidents on record, said FreightWatch International.

In addition, for the first quarter of 2014 the company reported a total of 206 full-truckload cargo thefts, representing an average loss value of $207,982. Compared with the first quarter of 2013 this is a 4.9% decrease in volume but represents a 38.5% increase in loss value, FreightWatch said.

The other security firm, CargoNet, recorded a total of 1,090 incidents of cargo theft for 2013, a drop of 9% from 1,197 incidents
from the previous year. The bulk of this decline took place during the first six months of 2013, the company noted.

“Although the number remained steady, the threat of cargo theft continues to grow in the United States due to increased organization and innovation on the part of cargo thieves,” FreightWatch said.

The U.S. is ranked with a high threat level for cargo thefts on the FreightWatch five-point risk scale, which ascends from a “low level” to “moderate,” “elevated,”  “high” and finally to “severe.”

Notable trends identified by FreightWatch include:

• In 2013 reported thefts of full-truckload pharmaceutical shipments jumped by 50%.

• California full-truckload pharmaceutical thefts spiked from 0 to 5; Illinois tripled its volume.

• Truck driver thefts increased by 44% last year.

• Food/drinks thefts rose 34.4%; with thefts of several product subtypes more than doubling.

• California had 92% of all the recorded thefts of nuts, which were targeted because of rising prices.

• During 2013 the state of California also saw thefts targeting the electronics shipments surge 35.9%.

• New Jersey had a 158% jump in food/drinks thefts, with an unusual concentration on seafood.

• Southwest Dallas became a new hijacking hotspot in 2013.

• Pennsylvania’s overall cargo theft rate plunged, but pharmaceutical thefts were well above the national average, FreightWatch said.

Fake Truckers Steal More Loads

CargoNet reported a 36% increase in crimes where the thieves create a fake trucking operation that then absconds with loads from unsuspecting shippers.

Accounting for 9.3% of all cargo theft last year, this kind of crime is less risky and less physically demanding than attempting to make off with a trailer from a truck yard, the company observed.

CargoNet said the average value of stolen cargo in a fictitious pickup was $154,134 in 2013, up 3% from 2012. Most of that consisted of food and beverage shipments, which are relatively easy to fence.

Approximately half the pickups by these thieves occur on Thursdays and Fridays, because that’s when shippers and brokers are more anxious to get their freight on the road, and the thieves can enjoy additional time to disappear, CargoNet said.

One state taking aggressive action to stem cargo theft is Georgia, which enacted a new law called the Cargo Theft Act, imposing penalties based on the value of the theft and singling out pharmaceutical cargo thefts to carry stiffer penalties.

Under the new law, theft of pharmaceuticals valued at up to $10,000 will draw sentences of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to 100,000.

Controlled substance thefts of up to $1 million in Georgia now carry maximum sentences of up to 25 years and $1 million in fines, while convictions for stealing loads exceeding $1 million can draw up to 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

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