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Labor Day weekend has become a more popular target for cargo thieves — especially during the pandemic era — with loaded trailers sitting idle for an extended stretch proving increasingly tempting.
“Labor Day does stand out for a lot of reasons,” said Keith Lewis, vice president of operations at CargoNet. “Obviously, the freight sitting is the big problem; the truck is sitting. You’ve got a longer extended time period.”
This year, there were 17 thefts reported over the Labor Day weekend period.
CargoNet, a cargo theft prevention and recovery network operated by data analytics and risk assessment firm Verisk Analytics, has seen a steady rise in thefts around the long weekend. It tracks activity starting the Thursday before the holiday and ending the following Wednesday. “That’s really our period where we see the big jump,” he said.
CargoNet data shows activity over this stretch peaked last year at 19 reported cargo thefts, following 17 in 2020. However, there were 14 reported incidents in 2019, 13 in 2018 and eight in 2017.
Lewis said one contributor is drivers who load trucks ahead of the weekend to be ready to go once it’s over. Plus, since Labor Day falls near the start of the holiday shipping season and football season, freight volumes tend to be up.
Scott Cornell, transportation lead and crime and theft specialist at Travelers, noted that an uptick in freight movement elevates thieves’ interest; when there is more freight on the road there tends to be more criminals targeting it.
“We just haven’t seen a drop-off since the pandemic,” Cornell said. “I think what you’re going to have at the end of this year is numbers almost right on par with 2021 and 2020. They may actually be a little bit higher, or they may actually be a little bit lower. But I don’t think you’re going to see much in the way of a drop-off.”
He added, “They’re down from last year, but only by two. They’re up from 2019 and they’re up from 2018 and they’re up from 2017. So what we’ve seen is a trend of those numbers going up over the past six years.”
Cornell noted supply chain backlogs have also led to more cargo sitting idle. He has been tracking several organized crime groups nationwide that are targeting these loads. They’re particularly interested in electronics, the most targeted shipment category by criminals since 2017, per CargoNet.
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“Right now we’re in the perfect storm of demand, criminal activity from the organized rings [and] some backlogs in the supply chain,” Cornell said. “When you look at long weekends, holiday weekends — in my opinion, just my opinion — there’s no surprise that Labor Day is a key weekend because when you look at where it sits, it sits right at the early stages of the movement of Christmas cargo.”
CargoNet said California had the largest rate of cargo theft activity over Labor Day, followed by Texas and Georgia. This reflects those states typically seeing high-volume traffic.
Ron Greene, security specialist at Overhaul, noted that cargo thieves are very knowledgeable about logistics. They study trends as in-depth as somebody who works in the industry. In fact, he said some may have worked previously in the logistics business.
“They know the lay of the land and know what to expect,” Greene said. “They specifically target these holiday weekends because there’s less likelihood of being caught and also there is more of a menu to pick from.”