Canada launches nationwide database to track cargo theft

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A nationwide database to help monitor and collect information about cargo theft is now online in Canada.

Industry professionals in both the trucking and insurance business said they are hopeful the new program will lead to an increased awareness of the impact of cargo crime, as well as provide law enforcement with better information to thwart criminals.

The national database went live last week, following a two-year pilot program in Ottawa and Quebec provinces, according to Garry Robertson, national director for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.The 400 Highway system connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Montreal, Quebec, is a hotbed of cargo theft activity.

All insurers in Canada and trucking association members can now report cargo thefts directly to IBC via an online submission form. The agency then acts as a clearinghouse for cargo theft data, and collects, analyzes and shares information with a national network of law enforcement partners, including Canadian and American border agencies. Robertson said law enforcement can also ask IBC to search the database to help identify property and to speed its recovery.

“We had several very good successes as a result of it, and that’s really what allowed us to be able to expand it and say ‘Yes, this will work,’” Robertson said. “I define success as definitely recovery. But also from a training and education standpoint, the awareness we were able to bring to law enforcement, to front officer training, and just getting that word out there to expand the knowledge base was what really allowed us to be able to go and bring in other partners.”

A 2011 study commissioned by Canadian Trucking Alliance estimated the cost of cargo crime at $5 billion per year.It also linked the thefts to organized crime rings, which use the proceeds of cargo theft to fund such activities as gun and drug smuggling. Cargo crime covers a number of criminal acts, including theft, fraud and hijacking.

Joanne Ritchie, director of the Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada, said the database was spearheaded by motor carriers, particularly in the province of Ontario.

“One of the big problems was a lot of the stuff was going unreported,” she said. “There was this idea that if they damaged their reputation or were seen as a carrier that kept losing its cargo, somehow it would have a negative impact on the company.”

Ritchie said the data is helping to show that high-value loads aren’t the only ones at risk.

“It used to be that drivers that were handling the loads you would think of, electronics and big-screen TVs, by perception those were the loads most often taken,” she said. “But we know that’s not the case.You’re just as much at risk of taking toilet paper or dog food. Anything that they can get their hands on that’s hard to identify.”

“We have to be as organized as they are,” Robertson said. “And not just Canada, but North America-wide because property is crossing the border on both sides. I can go into discount stores and places up here and see products with all U.S. packaging on them. No French. I’m sure you can go into border points and see Canadian, English and French language packaging being sold on that side. Your loads are coming here and our loads are going there.”

OOIDA security operations director Doug Morris said he believes the success of the Canadian database could spur a movement to institute a similar program in the United States.

“It’s an outstanding development,” he said. “The FBI should be the one putting this together for North America or the United States at least.I think it’s a good start. As they get more people involved and have some success stories, then you’ll see more people jump on.”

Robertson said the database has been useful not only in providing a more accurate, uniform method of reporting the frequency and scope of cargo crime, but also in matching up law enforcement with victims.

“(Law enforcement) are able to see they can make that phone call.We can identify that property, and put a victim to that property who we can now put in contact with (law enforcement) to allow for successful prosecution,” he said.

In addition to the website, Robertson said IBC has set up an anonymous phone tip line, which is open to anybody, even the general public.

“The important thing is getting the word out there,” he said. “The momentum is here. What we need to do is build on it.”

Anyone with general information that would assist in combating cargo theft in Canada can call IBC’s confidential 877-IBC-TIPS line or go online at www.ibc.ca to fill out a tip form that can be sent to IBC anonymously.

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