Last week at a truck stop in Indiana, a driver was taking a break and came out to find his truck, filled with $2 million worth of RIM Playbooks, had been stolen from the lot.
Two weeks ago, while a driver was having his morning coffee at a truck stop in Niagara, Ont., a skilled thief disabled the wheel-lock device on his highway tractor-trailer, started the rig and drove off with the load.
Findings of the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s report on cargo crime in Canada
-- Organized crime -- requires a network of criminals to both commit the theft and distribute the stolen goods. Among other things, they infiltrate carrier companies and target drivers to transport drugs across the border.
-- Law-enforcement challenges -- penalties do not match the seriousness of the crime (for instance, the report cites police officials who say someone caught with $10,000 worth of cocaine will spend time in prison, whereas theft of a million-dollar load of plasma TVs might not end in jail time). It's believed there is a lack of enforcement resources available to police forces to combat the crime.
-- Proposed measures to address cargo crime -- redefine simple "theft" to include "cargo theft" that has ties to organized crime; ensure penalties fit the crime; increase opportunities for stakeholders to exchange information and raise the profile of cargo crime within the policing community.
The load of Playbooks has not been found and some of them may have ended up under Christmas trees throughout the U.S. Midwest.
Police were able to retrieve the Niagara cargo and capture the crook a few hours later, only after a friend of the driver saw the truck and called the driver wondering why he was so far off the beaten track.
It was a lucky break in what has otherwise become a $5-billion-a-year problem for the trucking industry across the country.
Industry officials are normally loath to publicly acknowledge any insecurity in their industry. But they are mounting a public-awareness campaign in the hopes of increasing police co-operation and curtailing financial losses in a business that's trying to operate on razor-thin margins.
"Cargo crime is a concern across the country," said Bob Dolyniuk, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association. "There are some locations where it is a bigger issue than others and Manitoba truckers tend to operate throughout Canada, including areas where there is a high rate of cargo crime."
Earlier this year, the Canadian Trucking Alliance, in co-operation with the RCMP, other police agencies and the insurance industry, commissioned a report that highlights increasing levels of violence and organized-crime involvement in cargo crime.
"You don't hear a lot about it," said David Bradley, CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. "It's seen by many in authority as a victimless crime."
But the enormous losses have a ripple effect through the industry, from the cost of insurance to increased costs for shippers and ultimately increased costs for the truckers' customers and consumers.
Since 9/11 the trucking industry has made huge investments in security, but the crooks are getting smarter.
"Organized crime hires helicopters to follow equipment leaving facilities (where they know high-value loads, like electronics, are being shipped), then go after them," said Garth Pitzel, director of safety and driver development at Winnipeg's Bison Transport.
Bison has spent millions of dollars beefing up security at its terminals across North America and instituted rigorous safety protocols for its drivers.
"Our biggest concern is the safety of our employees and contractors," Pitzel said. "We no longer bid on tobacco shipments; the risk is just too high. We used to haul for certain electronics manufacturers, but we no longer do because of the risk. Organized crime is behind a lot of the larger thefts."
Every Bison terminal is now fenced, with swipe-card entry pass gates and camera surveillance, and every trailer has GPS and satellite communication connections. The company is certified in all of the North American protocols like FAST (Free and Secure Trade), PIP (Partners in Protection) and C-TPAT, (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism).
Tom Payne, president of Payne Transportation and chairman of the Manitoba Trucking Association, said its Manitoba operations are not so much of a worry as its Quebec terminals.
"Our office in Montreal is heavily gated with 24-hour security," he said. "But it's a real issue because most Manitoba companies are long-distance operators. That means they could be hauling snowmobiles from Quebec, electronics from the Vancouver port or tobacco and alcohol from the States," all of which are particularly attractive to crooks.
Bison and others have instituted strict operating protocols for drivers, but criminals are adapting and getting bolder.
Police across the country work closely with the industry, but the Criminal Code does not differentiate truck-cargo theft from any other robberies -- it's just over or under $5,000. The industry would like to see harsher penalties against the perpetrators of truck-cargo crime.
The study conducted earlier this year found that about 60 per cent of incidents are not reported.
The industry is trying to beef up data on cargo crime in the hopes it can encourage more co-operation from police.
"We need to provide data to make our case," Bradley said. "The issue is getting resources to police forces so they can enforce and finally if we get a guy to court, have the courts co-operate and put them away for a good long period of time as opposed to a slap on the wrist. There's lots of work to do and at times it seems like a losing battle."
The trucking associations across the country have recently teamed up with the Insurance Bureau of Canada to implement a new cargo-crime incident-report form.
The idea is to allow for an anonymous forum where incidents can be documented without requiring either insurance companies or police to be involved.
Bradley said when it was first implemented earlier this year, they were getting an average of three reports a day.
After the first month, the flow has slowed and Bradley said it's important for the industry to document every incident to bolster its case with police departments across the country.
Officials from both the Winnipeg police and the RCMP said truck-cargo theft is not something they track.
The RCMP's Sgt. Line Karpish said, "Anecdotally, it's not common."
Most trucking company officials agree with that, but that's not to say it never happens in Manitoba.
Gary Coleman, CEO of Big Freight System Inc., said his company has lost loads in the city.
"It is an issue," Coleman said. "We work hard to mitigate the risk and protect the asset. We do lots of driver training, including where to stop and where not to stop."
The latter includes vacant, unlit and unfenced lots.
Bison's standard operating procedure after loading -- even if it's innocuous cargo -- is to keep driving for four hours. So if hijackers are lying in wait for the truck to stop they'll have a long time to wait.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 27, 2011 B8
BY DOUGLAS QUAN, POST MEDIA NEWS DECEMBER 27, 2011
Police in Indiana say they hope video surveillance footage, plus the recovery of DNA and fingerprint evidence, will lead them to a group of brazen thieves who stole a truckload of Canada-bound Research in Motion electronic devices earlier this month.
Investigators say the truck-stop heist of 5,200 BlackBerry Playbook tablets — with a wholesale value of $1.7 million — was pulled off in just 13 minutes, most likely by a group of professional bandits who've done this before.
"Looking at the video, they were well-orchestrated. This wasn't a one-time shot," said Mike Milbourn, an officer with the Chesterfield Police Department.
Milbourn said members of an FBI task force that specializes in inter-state cargo theft are scheduled to travel to Indiana on Wednesday to view surveillance footage from the Dec. 15 incident.
Milbourn said it appears from the video images that the semi-trailer — which was destined for Waterloo, Ont., where RIM is based — was followed from a distribution warehouse in Plainfield, Indiana, to a truck stop in Chesterfield, about one hour away.
Driver Jason Garant told a local FOX TV station that he went in to grab a quick bite and take a shower and by the time he was out the truck was gone.
At least five people and three vehicles were involved in the elaborate caper, Milbourn said.
Investigators have recovered a fingerprint believed to belong to one of the suspects from the truck stop. That evidence, plus fingerprint and DNA evidence recovered from inside the stolen cab — which was later found about a mile away — will be sent to a state lab for analysis, Milbourn said.
The trailer and its pricey cargo are still missing.
Milbourn said FBI investigators have told him that the stolen electronic devices could be bound for Florida and shipped overseas.
An FBI spokesman in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday he couldn't comment on the case because the investigation is ongoing.
Anyone who attempts to use one of the stolen tablets could have a tough time. All the devices have been blocked from being able to register with RIM and download any software, Milbourn said. Plus, the serial numbers from each tablet have been entered into a national law enforcement database.
A RIM spokeswoman said Tuesday she couldn't provide any additional information.
The theft of the devices comes at the end of a year that saw RIM's stock price plunge, massive job cuts at the company, a prolonged BlackBerry service outage that infuriated users around the world and the firing of two vice-presidents who became intoxicated on a commercial flight to Beijing.
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© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A semitrailer that was loaded with $50,000 worth of margarine when it was stolen from an Iowa truck stop has been found in Michigan, but the margarine and the people who took it are nowhere to be found, authorities said Wednesday.
The trailer was parked awaiting delivery to a Target warehouse in Cedar Falls when it was stolen Dec. 10 from a parking lot in Elk Run Heights near Waterloo. It was found Dec. 15 in a parking lot more than 500 miles away in Fowler, Mich.
Waterloo police Capt. Rick Abben said the trailer had arrived early and had to be parked until the warehouse was ready to take it in. When a truck came to get the trailer, it was gone, he said.
It was the latest in a series of semitrailer thefts in the Waterloo area during the past 18 months, Abben said. The others included a trailer filled with beef jerky, one loaded with dog food and one carrying dental hygiene products, Abben said.
All but the one of the trailers have been recovered, he said.
"When these people hook up to these things, how do they know what's in there unless you break the seal and look inside?" Abben said. "You kind of wonder, if I open a trailer and saw it had $50,000 of margarine or $50,000 of TVs, which one would you rather have?
"And how in the world do you get rid of $50,000 of margarine?"
As first reported by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, a report from the Illinois-based National Insurance Crime Bureau showed there were 747 reports of cargo theft across the country in 2010, with truck stops, parking lots, warehouses and port cities being the most common crime scenes.
About $171 million in goods were taken from trucks, trains and airplanes, according to the report released in May.
The organization calls cargo theft a "low-risk crime with high-profit potential."
The report lists only two cargo thefts in Iowa in 2010, both in the Quad Cities area.
Cargo thieves don't take time off during the holidays -- in fact, they may turn to more aggressive methods, say freight security experts.
CargoNet's analysis of historical cargo theft data shows that the rate of cargo theft increases over holiday weekends.
Freightwatch International also notes that criminal elements may adjust their tactics to get the product needed for fencing on the black market for holiday consumers. These methods are often more aggressive than traditional cargo theft techniques and often result in smaller volumes of loads being stolen, such as smash-and-grab style thefts at open docks and trailer-container pilferage.
Also, with cold weather upon us, trucks are being left running, which can decrease driver situational awareness due to noise, increasing the risk of theft.
Freightwatch International also points out that trucking companies will work to have personnel home for the holidays. This may result in driver swap outs over-the-road. Security levels can be diminished with additional stops and additional personnel entering into the supply chain.
CargoNet offered the following steps to help prevent theft and recover stolen cargo:
* Avoid having loaded trailers sit unattended over the weekend. If loaded trailers do need to sit unattended, be sure they are parked in secure areas.
* Make sure that both security managers and drivers have accurate license plate, VIN, and descriptive information for tractors, trailers, containers, and container chassis. Police agencies will need this information to open an investigation in the event of an incident.
* Consider deploying covert tracking devices in product and on trailers. If using tracking devices, be sure to geofence all stationary trailers that are not being actively monitored.
* Secure all tractors with high-security locking devices, such as air-cuff and tractor steering joint locks.
* Secure all trailers (loaded and unloaded) with high-security ISO 17712-compliant barrier seals in combination with hardened padlocks. Use kingpin locks for unattached trailers.
* Check to make sure that facility lighting, back-up generators, alarm system(s) and surveillance equipment are all in good working order.
* Never treat any alarm signal as a "false alarm". When targeting warehouse locations, cargo thieves tend to trip facility alarm systems multiple times before breaking-in to give law enforcement and facililty managers the impression that the alarm system is malfunctioning.
* Remove keys from all facility equipment, especially motorized pallet jacks and forklifts.
* Document and report all suspicious activity that occurs in and around a facility to security personnel & the CargoNet operations center. This information can be critical to law enforcement in the event of a cargo theft incident.