Cargo Theft is Counted; Provision in Patriot Act establishes cargo crime category, boosts punishments for theft convictions
BY ANGELA GREILING KEANE
Copyright 2006, Traffic World, Inc.
A provision in the Patriot Act establishes a new cargo theft category for federal crime reporting purposes, a move shippers and law enforcement officials hope will curb increasing thievery of goods in transit.
The Patriot Act, which President Bush signed March 8, puts cargo theft in an exclusive list of serious crimes that the Federal Bureau of Investigation tracks through the Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
It’s not a silver bullet, but with cargo theft having its own classification within the UCR, in the long run, I think it will help law enforcement, International Cargo Security Council Executive Director William Corley said. ICSC members have lobbied for years for cargo theft to be its own UCR category.
They succeeded this year with the help of Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., whose Cargo Theft Prevention Act was wrapped into the new Patriot Act.
One estimate places the loss through cargo theft at $25 billion a year, said Stearns. This crime costs more than all bank robberies, computer piracies, burglaries and identity thefts combined. Profit from cargo thefts often goes to fund organized crime or terrorist activities, and we know that terrorists can make a lot of money stealing and selling cargo.
Neither the FBI nor the cargo industry has a good handle on how much cargo is stolen each year given the lack of coordinated reporting on the subject.
We can easily say that cargo theft costs U.S. businesses tens of billions of dollars per year, Corley said.
In addition to adding the cargo theft category to the crime reporting system, the Patriot Act increased jail time for cargo theft convictions. Theft of cargo worth less than $1,000 is now punishable by three years in prison, while incarceration can be up to 15 years for cargo theft worth more than $1,000.
Stearns picked up the issue several years ago after his local newspaper ran a series of stories on the growing problem of the theft of truck trailers in his part of Florida. In recent years, shippers and law enforcement officials have reported that cargo theft is increasing. At a hearing last year before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, shippers and others said that cargo theft is an unfortunate byproduct of tightening supply chain security across the board.
The other categories the FBI tracks through the UCR, which is a voluntary reporting system, are murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.