Texas lawmaker wants to get tough on cargo theft

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/25/2014

Stiffer punishment for truck, rail or container cargo thieves could soon be under review at the Texas statehouse.

Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, has filed a bill for consideration during the upcoming regular session that would establish cargo theft as a specific offense and impose escalating fines and punishment based on the value of goods.

According to FreightWatch International, Texas ranked behind only California in the number of cargo thefts a year ago. Florida, Georgia and Illinois rounded out the top five.

Fletcher, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye recent held a news conference to bring attention to the importance of stopping cargo theft in the state.

Dewhurst said that two of his biggest priorities are keeping people safe and fostering economic conditions. He said that cargo theft puts both at risk.

“It’s time to defend our economy by better equipping law enforcement to target this crime and increasing penalties for offenders,” Dewhurst said in prepared remarks.

Offenders would face felony charges that range from six months behind bars for loads valued at less than $10,000 to as much as life in prison for loads valued at more than $200,000. Any damage to the truck or trailer would also be included in the value of the load.

“The bad guys think they can come here and violate our laws,” said Fletcher, a retired Houston police officer. “They are going to find out otherwise.”

Fletcher’s bill, HB102, can be considered during the session that begins Jan. 13, 2015.

A Georgia law that took effect in July also addresses the issue. Offenders who steal cargo from trucks could receive prison sentences as long as 20 years and/or fines up to $1 million.

Georgia state Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, previously told Land Line the new law “is as much about deterring folks from committing the crime as being a business-friendly piece that allows people to rest assured.”

OOIDA Director of Security Operations Doug Morris called the Georgia law a step in the right direction to help protect truck drivers and their property. He has also said that providing truckers with safe places to park is needed to address this issue.

Morris said it is good to see states such as Texas taking steps to combat cargo theft.

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