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Cargo Theft Getting More “Professional and Sophisticated”

Posted March 13, 2015

The number of reported cargo thefts in the United States fell last year compared to 2013, but the average value of the thefts rose, according to a pair of recent assessments by logistics security analysts.

Cargo theft prevention and recovery service provider CargoNet tracked 844 cargo theft incidents last year, a sizeable drop from 1,098 the previous year, but the average value of thefts increased to $181,681.  The total amount of stolen cargo in 2014 reported was $89.5 million, almost half of which (by value) was comprised of consumer electronic devices, with an average heist value of $549,539.

Warehouse locations were the most frequent targets of theft, owing in part to a significant number of fraudulent pickups, according to CargoNet, followed by truck stops. Almost all thefts occur when trucks are stationary and unattended, in areas with unsecured parking. Likewise unsurprising is the finding that coastal areas surrounding container shipping ports are hotspots for cargo theft.

Based on similar findings in its annual analysis released earlier this week, FreightWatch International (FWI) believes that despite last year’s 12% drop, the risk of cargo theft will rise in 2015 because cargo thieves continue to adopt what the firm describes as “professional and sophisticated” tactics resulting from “increased organization and innovation.” FWI’s report says this approach is illustrated by “the 36% rise in average value which suggests organized thieves offset the lack of access to a high quantity of shipments by targeting higher value merchandise.”

FWI notes that while most thefts are “opportunistic” in nature, there continues to be a global shift towards more sophisticated and targeted activity. “We have observed a global trend that this activity is a forerunner to organized criminals embedding themselves and their organizations deeper into cargo theft activities,” FWI said. “This resilient commitment is commonly a precursor to an escalation in risk – both in severity and frequency of attacks over time – and depending on conditions, can increase the likelihood of violence.”

One of the main reasons for continued cargo thefts FWI contends is that cargo crime represents a lucrative criminal enterprise compared with activities yielding similar returns, such as armed bank robbery. Additionally, legal penalties for cargo theft are relatively modest when compared to other types of non-violent thefts.