By: Salvatore Marino, Vice President of Business Development, CargoNet
Drop a pebble into a fishpond and it creates a tiny ripple. What starts as a local event instantly surges outward, causing a ring of disturbance that grows as it travels across the water. Beneath the surface, the goldfish scatter as a mallard above beats a rapid retreat. And for those who may be dozing on the shoreline, a chain of events has begun that forces change in every direction.
Cargo theft detonates a similar wave of disruption in the supply chain. After a theft takes place, the toll in damages is just beginning, and direct losses from the theft often trigger other, indirect impacts that travel down the supply chain - call it the ripple effect. A study in 2011 was conducted around a stolen container carrying digital cameras with an estimated value of $200,000. It found that ripple-effect losses actually dwarfed the direct loss of cameras by a factor of 10, meaning it would take an additional $2m in sales to offset the initial loss.
Those sales have to compensate for expedited shipping of replacement products, repayment of taxes and duties, and loss of consumer confidence, among other concerns. For any company - in any field - that’s quite a ripple.
Truth or Consequences
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, losses from cargo theft in the United States could reach $30bn annually, although there’s little objective evidence available to support that figure. Willful blindness may be partly to blame for the absence, and many companies fail to report thefts in order to avoid public scrutiny or higher insurance premiums. In addition, reporting systems used by law enforcement, such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), lack an appropriate uniform crime report (UCR) code to label cargo theft, which leaves investigators with a tricky judgment call. When reporting a theft, the choices include robbery, extortion/blackmail, burglary/breaking and entering, theft from building, theft from motor vehicle, all other larceny, motor vehicle theft, false pretenses/swindle/confidence game, credit card/automated teller machine fraud, impersonation, wire fraud, embezzlement, and bribery. This subjective and potentially confusing reporting process hinders the filing officer’s ability to match a crime to the appropriate code.
Reporting issues present just one black hole when it comes to recovery of stolen cargo. Another prevailing problem is the lack of preparedness by a long and snaking supply chain that includes carriers, brokers, drivers, retailers and manufacturers. All too often, when theft occurs, the victims rely solely on local law enforcement to recover their cargo. Without robust, timely, and actionable intelligence about theft, law enforcement holds a losing hand. In some jurisdictions, investigators lack manpower, resources and basic tools to connect the dots in a cargo theft at the national level.
A cargo theft is typically reported by the driver, since drivers are more often than not the first to notice a loss. The first call is likely to 9-1-1 or a company dispatch center, which in turn will call 9-1-1. The local law enforcement dispatcher deploys an officer to the scene to investigate and take a police report. Usually, the driver doesn’t have complete details but assures the officer it was a “white trailer.” Even for seasoned investigators, it might be challenging to find a missing white trailer among hundreds of other white trailers rumbling down the freeway.
In other cases, details reported to law enforcement are specific to tractor and trailer, such as a vehicle’s identification and license numbers, make, model, color and a rough description of the cargo. Key evidence is often absent — serial numbers, lot numbers, stock-keeping unit numbers, unique markings on packaging and other critical aspects of the missing cargo. This poses another challenge because it’s not entered into NCIC, again due to the lack of law enforcement resources. No question about it, it is time-consuming to enter cargo specifics into the NCIC database, and only a highly motivated researcher will take the time to chase down a victim for this type of gritty detail. The tragedy is that, even when law enforcement discovers suspect cargo, investigators are unable to match cargo in question to what was reported stolen.
Theft Database: Why Not Share?
So, it follows that another challenge is lack of collaboration throughout the supply chain. Victims are generally hesitant to report thefts for fear that their clients, prospects, competitors and insurers will find out. But what if supply chain participants shared theft intelligence and reports of suspicious activity? How might collaboration improve decision making? When a trend is identified and shared, it carries the potential to alert others and lessen their chances of becoming a victim. Sharing information applies not only to the supply chain; it applies equally to law enforcement. Often, several law enforcement agencies investigate the same theft and aren’t even aware of it. If they knew, they might be able to assist each other in the investigation. Having a central reporting repository to reach effectively across jurisdictions should improve and streamline the flow of communications.
In the final analysis, many providers of transportation services have limited resources and are unable to justify the return on investment in maintaining a full-scale security department. Too often, companies don’t appoint a dedicated security person, with the responsibility instead falling to a safety manager, claims manager, operations person, or any warm body in between. It’s far from ideal to have someone responsible for a cargo security program who’s had no prior training. Therefore, it’s imperative to put in place training and educational programs that encourage risk awareness as it specifically relates to cargo theft.
Everyone is responsible for cargo security, and it is in the supply chain’s best interest to share and collaborate, as well as develop best practices, standard operating procedures, and documented protocols. If a shipper asks a transportation provider about post-theft recovery, and the company responds, “We call 9-1-1, file a police report, and submit an insurance claim,” then it may be time to find a new provider.
A thoughtful strategy that addresses the issues faced by law enforcement and the supply chain, combined with a shared willingness to fill these voids, can only lead to recoveries, arrests, and convictions — and a more secure chain with fewer disruptions. When a single container goes missing at any stage of the supply chain, a plan should be in hand and staff at the ready to mop up from cargo theft’s inevitable ripple effects.
Another look at 2014 cargo theft figures: $89.5 million in freight stolen, thieves putting in effort for high-value loads
By James Jaillet @trucknewsJJ
CargoNet’s heat map of cargo theft activity from 2014. Each dot represents a theft.
Just shy of $90 million in cargo was stolen in 2014 in truck-trailer cargo theft incidents, according to a report released this month by CargoNet. Nearly half of that was high-value electronics loads, which averaged $549,539 in stolen goods per theft incident and totaled $42 million in the year.
CargoNet’s figures are similar to those also released this month by FreightWatch International, with both reporting a small drop in the number of overall incidents but a sizable jump in the average loss value per incident.
The number of incidents in the year fell to 844, CargoNet reports, down from 2013’s 1,098. The average loss value jumped from $143,957 in 2013 to $181,681 in 2014.
CargoNet also says carriers and truck operators should be more attentive to vehicles trailing them, as the rise in organized cargo theft rings has given rise to thieves talking shipments from their point of origin, sometimes trailing loads hundreds of miles and across multiple states waiting on drivers to leave their truck and trailer unattended.
“Truckers should frequently make sure they’re not being followed, especially by a car with multiple occupants and out-of-state plates,” CargoNet warns in its report.
FreightWatch International in its 2014 report noted a similar trend, saying growing sophistication among thieves will likely mean fewer theft incidents but more targeted and highly planned thefts.
Based on its annual analysis of cargo theft activity,FreightWatch International (FWI) believes the risk of cargo theft will increase slightly in 2015 versus 2014, many because cargo thieves continue to adopt what the firm describes “professional and sophisticated” tactics.
“Although the total number of verified incidents decreased by 12%, the threat of cargo theft continues to grow in the U.S. due to increased organization and innovation on the part of cargo thieves,” FWI said in its Annual Cargo Theft Report for 2014.
“This evolution is illustrated by the 36% rise in average value [of cargo thefts] which suggests organized thieves offset the lack of access to a high quantity of shipments by targeting higher value merchandise,” the firm added.
FWI recorded 794 cargo thefts throughout the U.S. in 2014, with the average value per theft reaching $232,924 – a 36% increase in value over 2013 – which translates into an average of 66 cargo thefts per month or 2.2 per day.
The firm noted that while the “opportunistic” modus operandi (M.O.) is still the more prevalent tactic used by cargo thieves in the U.S. market, there continues to be a “global shift” towards more professional and targeted activity.
“We have observed a global trend that this activity is a forerunner to organized criminals embedding themselves and their organizations deeper into cargo theft activities,” FWI said. “This resilient commitment is commonly a precursor to an escalation in risk – both in severity and frequency of attacks over time – and depending on conditions, can increase the likelihood of violence.”
Still. FWI stressed that the U.S. “still enjoys” a relatively low level of cargo theft-related aggression and criminal sophistication compared to similar countries in Europe.
Following an odd cargo theft earlier this week — in which roughly $5 million in gold bars were stolen from the back of a tractor-trailer heading from Miami to Massachusetts — authorities have begun to question whether the two truckers piloting the rig were involved.
The drivers made a sudden and unscheduled stop along a rural stretch of Interstate 95 in North Carolina on Sunday night. They both subsequently got out of the truck’s cab, when three men in a cargo van pulled up next to the truck, held the truckers at gunpoint, tied them up and then stole the 275 pounds of gold from the trailer.
Detectives in the case have noted it “could be an inside job,” according to multiple reports, including one from the county’s local Wilson Times.
Wilson County Sheriff Calvin Woodard held a press conference Wednesday on the matter, but didn’t comment on the detective’s speculation. He also said the drivers were still considered victims at this time, not suspects.
“As the massive backlog of cargo begins to release into the supply chain, the frenetic situation will be rife with opportunity for cargo criminals,” FreightWatch ...
Casting suspicion on the two truckers, however, are several items of note. Of chief concern, the two drivers left their guns inside the truck when they exited their vehicle after pulling off — a violation of their carrier’s (Transvalue) rules.
The two drivers also reported mechanical issues, and one reported being sick after smelling diesel fumes. Neither of those claims could be confirmed by a mechanic, however, the Wilson Times reports.
The truck’s trailer doors were also only protected with a simple padlock.
Lastly, the cargo thieves stopped behind the truck almost immediately, and upon tying them up immediately went for the trailer doors and the buckets of gold within.
More details on the investigation will be posted when they become available.
Three suspects believed to be part of a Cuban gang stealing tractor-trailers along the East Coast were arrested in Wythe County on Wednesday night.
According to Wythe County Sheriff Keith Dunagan, the two men and one woman were captured near a trailer that was reported stolen at approximately 10 p.m. from Exit 41 off of Interstate 77.
Deputies found the trailer, which was loaded with Coty cosmetics valued at $250,000, at the intersection of Lithia Road and Bob Spring Road. The tractor was later located near Exit 77 off of Interstate 81.
Arraigned today on a variety of felony charges, 25-year-old Ritzy Montaner Robert of Louisville, Kentucky; 43-year-old Orlis Cantillo Machado, believed to be from Kentucky or Florida; and 47-year-old Miguel Roberto Mompie of Jeffersonville, Indiana, are being held without bond in the New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin.
Robert was charged with grand larceny (two counts), conspiracy to commit grand larceny (three counts), possessing stolen property, conspiracy to possess stolen property, possession of burglary tools and conspiracy to possess burglary tools. Machado and Mompie are facing the same charges with an additional grand larceny count each.
Their preliminary hearings have been scheduled for April 16 in Wythe County Circuit Court.
According to a 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek article, the gangs often target trucks loaded with cosmetics, designer clothes and pharmaceuticals.
A trio of men stole several barrels of gold worth more than $4 million from a truck traveling through eastern North Carolina, leaving the vehicle's drivers tied up in the woods after they fled the scene, authorities said Monday.
The heist happened after the truck began experiencing mechanical problems late Sunday on Interstate 95 in Wilson County, the local sheriff said in a statement. The robbers tied up the two armed security guards escorting the shipment from Miami to Massachusetts and fled.
Calvin Woodward Jr., the local sheriff, said the FBI has been contacted.
"We have been notified and are coordinating with our law enforcement partners to determine whether a federal crime has been committed," the FBI said in a statement.
It was not clear Monday afternoon how much gold and silver was in the truck. The Miami-based Transvalue Inc., which employed the guards, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Three men stole several barrels of gold worth more than $4 million from this truck traveling through eastern North Carolina, authorities said Monday.— Miranda Leitsinger