With $15-30 Billion in annual cargo theft in the United States, cargo crime is a serious problem for business and law enforcement. The loss of just one full truck load can cost a company anywhere from $12,000 to $5 Million. The seriousness of this problem for commerce in the United States has prompted the FBI to form cargo theft task forces in major cities including Memphis, Houston, Newark, New York, San Juan, and Miami. Unit Chief Eric B. Ives, who heads the Major Theft Unit in the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, says “Cargo theft is our number-one priority in Major Theft.”
How Cargo Thieves Operate
Cargo thieves in the United States typically target “over-the-road” trailers with high-value freight, monitoring truck stops, freight yards, and other areas where tractor-trailers frequently are left unattended. Thieves will identify a truck carrying millions of dollars worth of inventory, follow it to a truck stop, seize it and drive away. Visible GPS antennas on trailers or tractors are quickly and easily discarded, rendering this protection measure useless.
Stolen trailers either are emptied quickly of freight, or are parked and placed under counter-surveillance to watch for police response to a tracking signal. Once the thieves are assured the tractor-trailer is not equipped with a hidden tracking device, the vehicle is moved to a designated area nearby. One common technique is for thieves to move the stolen freight into a “clean” trailer as soon as possible via a back-to-back transfer. This operation has been completed for a full 53-foot load of consumer electronics in as little as 30 minutes. Other techniques include driving the entire stolen rig to a final destination (often painting over or peeling off company identification) and using a satellite warehouse in the vicinity of the theft location for storage of stolen property.
Why Covert Cargo Tracking Defeats Criminals
Given that cargo thieves know how to disable GPS antennas on trailers and tractors, and are capable of transferring stolen cargo so quickly to “clean” trailers, manufacturers must turn to other solutions to protect their cargo from theft. A highly effective solution is covert cargo tracking. Covert cargo trackers are small battery-powered devices that use assisted GPS to transmit location data. These trackers are so small that they can be completely concealed from criminal eyes. Assisted GPS technology ensures that the covert trackers can accurately transmit location information, even though they do not have view of the open sky. Even if cargo thieves transfer the load to a different trailer, they will still be caught because the trackers reveal the location of the actual cargo they are stealing.
Real-Life Recoveries Using Covert Cargo Tracking
During a 60-day period in 2006, three separate full truck loads (FTLs)—carrying a combined cargo wholesale value of nearly $5 Million—were stolen and recovered in less than two hours each incident. Covert cargo tracking with FSNtracks led law enforcement directly to the stolen loads where criminals were apprehended and cargo was recovered. Cargo was recovered so quickly, in fact, that each of these deliveries was still made on time.