By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, February 17, 2017
Efforts in Mississippi and New Mexico, which are intended to deter the theft of truck, rail or container cargo through stiff punishment, have cleared hurdles.
According to FreightWatch International, Mississippi and New Mexico rank in the top half of states in the number of cargo thefts. Florida, California, Texas, New Jersey and Georgia are in the top five.
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.
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.
The Mississippi House voted 109-9 to advance a bill to establish cargo theft as a specific offense and impose felony charges with escalating fines and punishment based on the value of goods.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has about 2,130 members residing in Mississippi, says the legislative effort to deter cargo theft is a reasonable and overdue deterrent intended to better protect the livelihood of the men and women that help drive the economy.
Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said cargo theft is bad for everyone involved in the supply chain, especially truck drivers.
“When a trucker becomes the victim of theft, it can be financially devastating,” Matousek said. “Such an occurrence could effectively put our members, the majority of whom are single truck owner-operators, out of business.
“The same goes for those involved in seasonal operations as they miss out on a year’s income in a short period of time.”
In an effort to discourage thefts in Mississippi, HB722 calls for offenders to face prison in addition to monetary penalties. Specifically, thieves who steal cargo from trucks loaded with controlled substances, or pharmaceuticals, valued at less than $10,000 would face fines up to $100,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison.
Theft of controlled substances valued up to $1 million could result in as much as 25 years behind bars and/or fines up to $1 million. Loads valued in excess of $1 million could result in prison terms as long as 30 years and/or fines up to $1 million.
Violators of other property heists valued as much as $1,000 would face misdemeanor charges. Theft of cargo valued as high as $10,000 would include fines up to $100,000 and/or 10 years behind bars. Stolen loads valued in excess of $10,000 could result in 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $1 million.
Another provision in the bill covers fifth wheels, and any antitheft locking device attached to the fifth wheel. Any attempt to alter, move or sell a fifth wheel could result in 10-year prison terms and/or $100,000 fines.
The bill awaits assignment to committee in the Senate.
In New Mexico, the Senate Public Affairs Committee has forwarded a bill to establish the theft of trailer or container cargo as a specific offense and impose significant punishment.
The bill, SB74, 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.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi, click here. For more information on New Mexico legislation click here.