Why are cargo thefts off the charts?

By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

In January, a major truck and cargo theft ring faced a flurry of charges in Florida after an investigation alleged that four men and one woman stole 25 trucks and trailers full of rice, sugar and 55-inch televisions.

Unfortunately, to trucking security professional Doug Morris, it’s just the latest in the multibillion-dollar industry of stolen cargo.

Experts say 2.5 loads of cargo are stolen every day in the U.S. – the highest ever on record.

“It’s based on the economy,” said Morris, OOIDA’s director of security and a 25-year Maryland State Police veteran. “If the economy is going bad, cargo thefts are usually up. And the economy is still doing badly.”

FreightWatch International says U.S. Cargo thefts are up 4 percent from 2009, and food and drink thefts passed electronics as the No. 1 target.

FreightWatch statistics showed that 46 theft incidents includes the loss of multiple trailers in the same incident, a “rate of occurrence that far surpasses any previous year, demonstrating that criminals are aiming to increase their take-per-theft ratio,” a statement from the freight security company said.

Most cargo thefts occurred on Saturday, Sunday and Monday – nearly doubling the daily theft figures for Tuesday through Friday. FreightWatch reported that “64 percent of cargo is stolen over the weekend.”

Other cargo theft statistics of note include the following:

61 percent of all electronics thefts occurred in California (52), Florida (32) and Texas (22).

  • The average loss per incident in 2010 was $471,200, down from 2009’s average of $572,800.
  • The largest loss happened in March when $76 million in pharmaceuticals were stolen from a warehouse.

California led the way with 229 incidents, but FreightWatch says cargo theft groups in Florida appear to be working with groups in New Jersey to double the number of boosted loads in the Garden State from 50 to 100.

Before the past few years, local and regional organizations mostly planned their heists carefully, Morris said. Recently, however, more common criminals steal loads when opportunities arise.

“It’s an easy target,” Morris said. “They can do it and make money relatively fast.” LL