Cargo Heists are on the Rise – What you should know and how to fight back

There’s no doubt that cargo theft is an international problem that affects both businesses and consumers, but it isn’t a new problem. In fact, cargo theft has been around for centuries, mostly through the form of pirates plundering ships and seizing loot, bandits robbing stagecoaches on horseback, or thieves staking out trading roads and raiding unsuspecting merchants.

We’ve since evolved as a society, but unfortunately, so have the criminals. Since the breakout of organized crime syndicates in the early quarter of the 20th century, crime has become considerably more organized and sophisticated. Sure, the lone wolves will always exist. But, bands of street thugs who execute smash-and-grab jobs out of desperation aren’t exactly on the FBI’s radar. Cargo theft is a $15 billion to $30 billion a year problem in the United States, and it’s safe to assume that numbers of this magnitude are the result of organized criminals identifying lucrative opportunities, utilizing creativity and executing their heists quickly and efficiently.

So what exactly is being stolen?

Some reports would suggest anything and everything. But, in terms of ranking, food and beverage takes the lead, accounting for 20 percent of all cargo theft in North America. Why? Because cashews don’t have serial numbers, and tomatoes seldom have RFID tags hidden in their packaging. In addition to this, there’s a time-sensitive window for recovery with food, where the “evidence” usually gets consumed quickly. The same can’t be said about computers and flat-screen televisions, so stealing food tends to be a lower risk venture. Also on the list of most frequently stolen goods, we have home and garden supplies at 14 percent, industrial supplies at 13 percent, auto and parts at 11 percent, clothing and shoes at 10 percent, and electronics at 8 percent.

Where exactly is this happening?

California is notorious for cargo theft, and takes the lead at 22% percent. Texas is second at 15 percent, followed by Florida at 13 percent, New Jersey at 12 percent and Georgia at 7 percent.

What can be done?

The good news is, there are ways to minimize the risk of falling victim to cargo theft. Here are a few tips that should help you fight back.

How you park can make a difference:

It’s true that cargo thieves are clever, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be. Using your surroundings when you back up to park, whether a building, other trailers or even fences can make breaking into your cargo close to impossible. If you’re visiting a truck stop, make sure it’s one with heavier traffic. Avoid darker lots when parking and look for well-lit areas. If you spot security cameras, try your best to park your vehicle in their field of view.

Make sure you’re not being followed:

In recent years, drivers are more likely to be targeted and followed, so it’s important that you maintain awareness of your surroundings. If you think there’s a chance that you’re being tailed, try slowing down to see if the car will pass you. You can also switch lanes to see whether the car behind you does the same. If you’re still being followed, then take the next exit and try to park in a safe spot. If by now you’re convinced you have a tail, call your fleet for help.

Take time and location into consideration:

Cargo theft is significant problem, but only in a number of states. Also, instances occur much more frequently during holidays, and on the weekends (especially Saturdays). Be extra cautious during these times and in specific locations. Remember, 85 percent of all recorded robberies within the last three years occurred while the trucks were stationary and in unsecured parking lots. In the majority of these cases, trucks were left unattended.

Know who you’re working with:

Do your due diligence when choosing your carriers. There’s a slew of fraudulent companies out there that specialize in internal theft, so implementing a vigorous qualification process can be a useful precaution. A background check wouldn’t hurt for the sake of verification.

Don’t neglect the old-school tools:

As simple as it sounds, professional grade padlocks can make a big difference. These locks are a generally inexpensive, low-tech alternative to comprehensive security programs. Bolted door hardware and frames also work, as well as horizontal pins for your rear trailer bolster for extra reinforcement.