FreightWatch 2014 cargo theft report says thieves make 'targeting' loads a priority

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Friday, March 13, 2015

Cargo thieves appear to be moving toward a more sophisticated means of targeting shipments according to a new report analyzing 2014 cargo theft trends nationwide.

The report, published by FreightWatch, also suggests that while the number of verified and reported instances of cargo theft in the U.S. declined in 2014, the average loss value per incident increased markedly, a trend that has been ongoing since 2012.

FreightWatch, which specializes in tracking supply chain information and cargo thefts around the globe, publishes quarterly reports in addition to its annual report.

“Although the volume of reported cargo theft incidents fell in 2014 based on the data collected, (FreightWatch) considers the threat of cargo theft in the United States to continue rising,” the report stated. “There continues to be a substantial underreporting of cargo theft in the United States, which makes it difficult to depict an accurate threat landscape and forecast emerging trends.”
 
According to the report, the number of verified cargo theft incidents in the U.S. fell 12 percent in 2014, however the average loss value per incident rose 36 percent, with attacks on electronics driving the increase. FreightWatch maintains a database tracking cargo theft reports through a network of industry and law-enforcement sources.

The report also states that 90 percent of verified thefts in 2014 occurred when the truck was stationary and unattended. The vast majority of all thefts were theft or truckloads, and 87 percent of thefts with a known location were stolen from unsecured parking areas like truck stops, public parking and roadsides. Thefts from secured parking locations actually fell from 11 percent to 2 percent. FreightWatch recommends the industry address secured parking. By contrast, stationary and unattended thefts make up about 20 percent of all incidents in the United Kingdom and Germany.

According to the report, 2014 saw a “refocus” on major urban areas, particularly those with major transportation networks, and FreightWatch stated the forecast for cargo theft in the U.S. in 2015 is likely to increase.

“This is due, in part, to the continued increase in the level of organization and sophistication of criminal groups focusing on cargo, and the relatively minor penalties often associated with cargo crime,” the report stated. “In addition, the unsuccessful use of GPS and cellular jamming equipment has been observed in relation to cargo theft for the first time, illustrating the lengths that cargo thieves are willing to go to obtain their targeted merchandise.”

Reported fictitious pickups were down slightly, but FreightWatch cautioned that the data may be an anomaly due to the fact that such incidents are not always reported and can also be difficult to classify.

At least 47 percent of all verified facility thefts targeted electronics, and three of the incidents resulted in losses above $1 million, including the burglary of a Doral, Fla., facility that resulted in the theft of approximately $15 million worth of computer processors.

High-value electronics theft incidents tripled from 2013 to 2014, with the category seeing a 43 percent surge in the total average loss value of all electronics thefts, at $568,664. The report also notes that certain types or subtypes of products have “very strong state specific trends” including automobiles and auto parts in Texas (where nearly one-quarter of all such verified product thefts occurred). Texas also accounted for 28 percent of all building and industrial materials thefts, including 73 percent of all verified thefts involving roofing shingles.

Florida took over the top spot for all cargo thefts, narrowly edging out California, which saw a migration of cargo theft activity out of southern California and into northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Texas, Georgia and New Jersey rounded out the Top 5 states for verified cargo theft incidents.

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