Cargo theft losses total $12 billion annually
Nov 14, 2001 12:00 PM, Charles E Wilson, Editor
Annual cargo theft losses in the United States total $12 billion, with thieves targeting specific commodities, such as pharmaceuticals and high tech products. Alarmingly, national crime statistics show steady growth in armed robberies of truck shipments.
Losses just from the high tech industry amount to $5 billion a year, according to agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who provided an update on cargo theft trends November 13 during the TMW Systems Inc annual user group meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. Sixty percent of the thefts of high-tech shipments occur in transit.
“Profits from high-tech products are better than drugs,” said Stuart Shoaff, FBI supervisory special agent. “In addition, the penalties for getting caught are lower. A single Pentium memory chip is worth more than an ounce of powder cocaine, and you can put a million dollars worth of chips in the trunk of a car.”
Bulk cargoes, such as gasoline, are not being targeted at this time. However, Shoaff made it clear that the FBI remains very concerned that hazardous materials could be a terrorist target. “If anything suspicious occurs with a hazardous cargo, we want you to report it immediately. This is something we want to jump on as fast as possible.”
Organized groups that are heavily involved in cargo theft include ethnic gangs from Russia, Eastern European locations (Yugoslavia, Albania, and Croatia), and Armenia. Asian street gangs are active in cargo theft on the West Coast. Groups from Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru also are involved.
Shoaff said the trucking industry can help fight cargo theft by improving security and by reporting incidents as soon as they are detected. “We need immediate reports of thefts from the trucking industry,” he said. “We need serial numbers or lot numbers off the cargo to help in recovery. Once we learn of a theft, we try to alert the enforcement community right away.”
To fight cargo theft, the FBI has 86 agents assigned to task forces. The bureau relies strongly on outside help from local and state law enforcement agencies.