Texas law in effect Sept. 1 sets felony cargo theft rule

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/31/2015

Cargo thieves in Texas are on notice.

A new law in effect Tuesday, Sept. 1, establishes the theft of truck, rail or container cargo as a specific offense and imposes escalating fines and punishment based on the value of the goods.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, has said that cargo theft by organized crime rings has become a very serious problem in the state, as well as nationwide. She put the losses to the state at $23 million between 2012 and 2014.

Zaffirini told lawmakers earlier this year that cargo theft is a growing problem nationwide accounting for an estimated loss of $10 billion to $25 billion per year.

According to FreightWatch International, in 2013 Texas ranked behind only California in the number of cargo thefts. Florida, Georgia and Illinois rounded out the top five.

The new law authorizes felony charges for offenders, which range from six months behind bars for loads valued at a minimum of $1,500 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.

Offenders are defined as anyone who “knowingly or intentionally conducts, promotes or facilitates an activity” involving the receipt, possession, concealment, storage, barter, sale, abandonment or disposal of stolen cargo.

Texas joins Georgia in adopting rules that make cargo theft a specific crime with stiff punishment for offenders.

Another new law in effect Tuesday adds four routes to the oversize/overweight vehicle corridor for which the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority is authorized to issue permits.

Roadways affected are FM (Farm-to-Market) 1015 between U.S. 81 and U.S. 83 Business; U.S. 83 Business between FM 1015 and South Pleasantview Drive; FM 1015 between U.S. 83 Business and Mile 9 Road North; and Mile 9 Road North between FM 1015 and Joe Stephens Ave.

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