New Mexico bills set felony cargo theft rule, extend Santa Teresa POE hours

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A New Mexico state lawmaker wants to add the state to a short list of states to enact rules intended to discourage cargo theft.

Sen. Jim White, R-Albuquerque, is behind a bill to establish the theft of trailer or container cargo as a specific offense and impose significant punishment.

Advocates say that cargo theft by organized crime rings has become a very serious problem across the nation. The FBI says cargo theft causes $15 billion to $30 billion in losses each year.

According to FreightWatch International, in 2015 New Mexico ranked in the top half of states in the number of cargo thefts. California, Texas, Florida, Illinois and Tennessee are in the top five.

White’s bill would authorize second-degree felony charges. Offenders would face up to nine years in prison and fines up to the fair market value of the property stolen and the cost of recovering the property.

Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and Texas are among the states with rules in place that make cargo theft a specific crime with stiff punishment for offenders.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, says the issue of cargo theft is something that more states need to address.

He has pointed out that cargo theft is bad for truckers, bad for consumers, and bad for the economy.

“When a truck driver becomes a victim of cargo theft, it can be financially devastating,” Matousek said. “Our members, the majority of which are single truck owner-operators, would effectively be out of business.”

The Association encourages New Mexico truckers to contact their state lawmakers and express support for the legislation.

A separate bill of interest to truck drivers introduced by White would revise the state’s Move Over law.

State law requires travelers to move over, or slow down if unable to switch lanes, for emergency vehicles parked along roadsides with lights activated.

SB76 would expand the list to include all vehicles parked along roadways displaying flashing emergency lights or hazard lights.

Both bills await consideration in multiple committees.

One more bill awaiting assignment to committees would extend hours of commercial operation at the federally operated Santa Teresa Port of Entry.

The Department of Homeland Security lists operating hours at the facility from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

Sponsored by Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, HB91 would appropriate $200,000 from the state’s general fund to pay for keeping the facility open longer.

Advocates say longer hours are necessary to compete with ports of entry in and around El Paso, Texas.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Mexico, click here.

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