By WAYNE FORD
A Hambersham County man is charged with stealing nearly $1 million in products from a warehouse distribution center in Jackson County, authorities said Friday.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation charged Russell Scott Tittle, 42, of Clarkesville, with four counts of cargo theft, a new law passed last year to combat the growing crime of thefts at distribution centers, rail yards and sea ports, according to John Cannon, GBI agent in charge of a special Major Theft Unit based in Conyers.
Tittle, who was employed by a company moving products at the distribution center, remained in the Jackson County Jail on Friday without bond.
The GBI began its investigation in late January, soon after Reckitt Benckiser, a 40-000-square-foot distribution center in Jefferson, reported to Jefferson police that two trailers full of products were missing, according to Jefferson Police Investigator Sgt. James McNatt. Among the items missing in large quantities congestion medicine, police said.
“We’re still investigating and I think there will be other parties who will be arrested,” said McNatt, who said the case was turned over to the GBI.
The investigation led to the recovery of between $750,000 to $800,000 of the $974,000 worth of stolen products, which included over-the-counter medications and food, Cannon said.
Investigators were able to find leads in the case in nearby counties, including Franklin and Madison counties, authorities said.
“We’re one of the main states in the country for cargo theft and that’s why (the state) passed the law,” Cannon said, adding the theft rate is a combination of factors including the interstate highway system that supports trucking, the number of distribution centers and sea ports.
“We have the perfect mix for cargo thieves,” Cannon said.
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1. Screen Employees
Conduct a background check to screen all employees, but at minimum, drivers and warehouse employees as well as anyone who has access to shipment information and other logistics details. This is your first line of defense against employee theft and their potential involvement in cargo crimes.
2. Training for All Employees
Provide security training for all employees, and especially make sure to educate truck drivers in hijack awareness and prevention. It is for their protection as well as the cargo. By training how to protect the truck from high jacking and theft, five important assets are safeguarded: employee, trailer, tractor, cargo and customers. Experience shows that a driver who knows, understands and follows the basic tenets of security is less likely to have their truck targeted for theft.
3. Be Smart in Selecting Transportation Partners
Select transportation partners and intermediaries wisely, making sure they share your security philosophy, such as requiring strict pre-hire vetting of prospective employees and training for drivers is key. Remember you are entrusting your goods, and to some extent your reputation, to these companies.
4. In-Transit Security
Consider In-transit security when deciding on shipment routing. Cargo theft can be pre-planned or opportunistic. It can involve an inside informant who stakes out and follows the truck or an experienced thief, organized crime or fence who will quickly dispose of the goods. Cargo thieves routinely wait outside known shipping points (e.g., plants, warehouses and Distribution centers) and follow trucks as they depart, waiting for the drivers to stop. A good rule of thumb is to ask drivers not to stop within the first 200 miles or four hours, use secured lots and avoid cargo theft hot spots. Also, don’t give high risk and high value loads to new drivers.
5. Counter Surveillance
Included counter surveillance in the duties of your security guards. Have them patrol away from the perimeters and look for people looking at you. Trucks and cargo are most vulnerable to theft when sitting idle. “Freight at Rest is Freight at Risk”. Additional security measures for drivers include parking in well lit secure lots, limiting the time their trailers and loads are unattended, and observing or evaluating their surroundings for potential dangers.
6. Take Advantage of Technology
When it makes sense, install alarm-surveillance systems, and respond to every alert. Ensure the perimeter, entrances, building doors and windows are well lit. Vehicle and cargo tracking, vehicle immobilizers, including anti-theft heavy duty trailer locks, tractor air cuff locks, and advanced security seals. No matter what you purchase and install a multi layer approach combined with a viable escalation and response plan is essential.
7. Conduct Audits
Conduct periodic supply chain audits, and look for gaps in shipment protection. Cargo criminals are always coming up with new ways to defeat security devices and systems. By assessing your own system first you’ll have the opportunity to close the gaps in your supply chain. It is better to anticipate criminal moves than have to react to them.