June 26, 2019 10:45 AM, EDT

Cargo Theft Cases Rise in 1Q

Value of Items Stolen Also Increases
Truck parked on dark streetGetty Images

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

During the first quarter of this year, cargo thefts in the United States rose 25% to 144 reported incidents, with the average loss for each occurrence rising 1% to $116,717, according to a report from the SensiGuard Supply Chain Intelligence Center.

Broken down by month, 55 thefts occurred in January, 33 in February and 56 in March, the Beverly, Mass.-based company said. SensiGuard noted that just one incident reported last quarter — a cosmetics heist in California — was valued at more than $1 million. It added that less-than-truckload shipments are particularly attractive to thieves.

The company obtains its data from sources including insurance companies, law enforcement agencies and transportation security councils, but its reporting does not include theft of trailers, containers or bobtail tractors. Plus, it is not mandatory for states and police departments to categorize an event as cargo theft in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report category.

California — specifically, the southern part of the state — had the highest number of 1Q cargo thefts, accounting for 25% of all incidents nationwide. Florida and Texas each had 12%. Among cities, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Memphis, Orlando and Philadelphia had the highest risk of cargo theft. The report noted that 78% of large-scale cargo thefts took place in unsecured parking locations, including abandoned service stations. Just 9% of all thefts happened in parking areas that were deemed to be secure.

Freight that was designated “miscellaneous” was most likely to be targeted and stolen, accounting for 17% of thefts. The majority of loads in this category (68%) were composed of what the report called “mixed loads,” typically destined for big-box stores.

“The rise in popularity of LTL shipments that have driven the ‘miscellaneous’ category illustrates that the organized cargo thief is still targeting lower security and less-profitable loads for the limited amount of high target merchandise that is carried within, typically at much lower security when compared to a full truckload of the same targeted product,” the report said. “ ‘Miscellaneous’ has shifted from an outlier product type to a more reliable way for organized cargo thieves to obtain targeted merchandise.”

Electronics items ranked second at slightly more than 15%, followed by home and garden products, along with food and beverages, which tied for third at just below 15%.

Meanwhile, BSI Supply Chain Services and TT Club are out with their annual cargo theft report.

The study found in 2018 the median cargo theft in North America resulted in a $58,500 loss. Broken down by category, 26% were “slash and grab,” 19% were theft from a vehicle, 17% were hijacking, 13% were theft from a facility, 10% theft of the vehicle and 15% were categorized as “other.”

“North America balances between two types of cargo theft — the more reserved thefts of unattended cargo trucks that BSI and TT Club record in the United States and Canada and the aggressive and often violent hijackings characteristic of Mexico and the majority of Central America,” the report said. “Thieves in the United States and Canada most frequently steal unattended cargo trucks parked at unsecure locations, including truck stops and gas stations. Hijackings in those two countries are extremely rare. In contrast, thieves in Mexico and Central America utilize cargo truck hijackings as a primary tactic. In most incidents that BSI records in this region, thieves often brandish and occasionally use firearms to force cargo truck drivers to the side of the road. Thieves commonly take drivers hostage during these hijackings, generally holding them for a short period of time to delay police response.”

The report also said in several nations — including the U.S., Mexico, the United Kingdom, India and Italy — the pharmaceutical industry faces significant supply chain-related challenges, including the outright theft of drugs.

“Thieves overwhelmingly strike the trucks moving pharmaceutical products globally, with the trucking modality targeted in almost three quarters of thefts recorded by BSI in 2018. The techniques involved in stealing pharmaceuticals vary, but the most common tactic is stealing from trucks by surreptitiously or overtly accessing the payload, a method which accounts for nearly one-third of thefts, followed by hijacking and theft from a facility,” the report said.

The report also identified a common threat when it comes to cargo theft and other illegal activities against the business: company insiders.

“As organizations implement increasingly sophisticated physical, procedural and cybersecurity measures to protect their assets from external threats, the recruitment of insiders becomes a more attractive option for those attempting to gain access.”

The report said financial gain was the single source of motivation in 47% of all insider criminal cases against companies, and 76% were self-initiated, rather than as a result of deliberate infiltration or targeting of the business.