Putting a Stop to Highway RobberyCanada's trucking industry steers out of the skid of the $5B cargo theft business
Drugs get the big headlines: pot plantations out in BC; meth labs in your squeaky clean ‘burbs in Calgary. Even when trucking’s involved. Only two years ago, the Toronto Starreported on the lucrative cross-border drug smuggling trade via long-haul loads; one bust alone turned up 97 bricks of cocaine, worth more than $4 million. But here’s the thing: if you think about it, why should crooks bother at all with dope, when there’s so much legit merchandise to be ripped off?
Let’s go back to early May. The Auto/ Cargo Theft Unit of the York Regional Police get a tip and swoop in on multiple warehouses in Vaughan and Toronto, where thieves have stashed $1.4-million worth of stolen goods. The cops have to cart away 15 loads—count ‘em, 15—of merchandise: baby products, barbecues, household appliances, cleaning supplies, tools, forklifts, vehicle antifreeze, musical instruments, and not just the kind you can walk off with, like a guitar or clarinet, but an actual baby grand piano. Detective Sergeant Paul LaSalle of the York Regional Police has a good sense of humour, and he deadpans, “Yeah, we knew we’d get questions about the grand piano.”
In a way, the raids are a tribute to a new spirit of collaboration among law enforcement agencies, the insurance business and the trucking industry. It was a classic team effort, with Peel Regional Police assisting and the Ontario Trucking Association involved. Thanks in part to the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s cargo database, the cops were able to return most of the stolen goods to their legitimate owners.
It’s a significant win, given that cargo theft—whether from trucks or containers in a port—is an international problem. Roberto Saviano, the investigative journalist who now lives in hiding from the mafia, started his classic on organized crime, Gomorrah, not with a discussion of coke and heroin but how the port of Naples has a bursting black market in jeans, Barbies and plastic toys.
For Canada alone, the illegal haul is $5 billion a year, more than enough incentive for the IBC and the Canadian Trucking Alliance to expand their cargo theft reporting pilot program. Garry Robertson, national director of investigative services for IBC, says the program will be expanded out west. “I’ve already got some law enforcement agencies from the Western regions that are now interested. We will be doing that so that we can see: is the pattern [of thefts] that is happening in British Columbia, Alberta and across the Prairies the same pattern that we have in southern Ontario using the [Highway] 401 corridor between Windsor and Montreal? Or do we have another one?” He says the faster that information about load thefts can be put out in the media, the more tips will come back from the public.
The free flow of information wasn’t always there. Barry Peabody, a consultant in product management for SGI Canada in Regina, concedes that cargo theft is an issue that trucking firms are often embarrassed to talk about. “They have to admit it to the client, but they’re also looking at the image of their own company, and you know, if you’re hauling for 10 customers and you are publicly saying we’ve lost, for whatever reason, these commodities for this customer, the other nine customers are going to be sitting there thinking, hmmm.”
When Wheels Are Turning
In a climate of reticence, of course, the thieves can go merrily on. The obvious big-ticket bull’s eyes are Montreal, Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area. But, Peabody says what the bad guys want differs from year to year. While electronics used to be favourite items, they can be detected far easier these days and shut down remotely. “So what we’re starting to see are more common things getting stolen. Food and drink they can get sold relatively quickly, and most don’t have serial numbers on them. Somebody steals a flat of soft drinks, you’re not going to really ask, is this a stolen commodity? It doesn’t occur to you when you’re at a summer market somewhere and somebody’s selling bottles of cola for 75 cents less than what everybody else is selling them for.”
He says the risk in Eastern Canada is mainly to packaged consumer goods going through a wholesaler to the retailer. In the West, of course, a lot of base minerals, lumber, ore, grains and potash get shipped. The risk is lower “because of the nature of the commodity itself. Combined with the commodity is where it originates, because, you know, there’s an old saying in cargo insurance that freight at rest is freight at risk. What the idea there is, is if the wheels are turning, there hasn’t been a load stolen yet.”
“‘We’ve never picked up a load from you, we don’t know who you are, that wasn’t us.’ And then you realize that their identity has been stolen.”
A load that has to stop a dozen times before it can actually get out onto the highway has an inherent risk in each of those stops. Conversely, if you load some grain from an elevator and hit the road, your risk is less. But you can’t just look at what’s in the trailer—consider who’s behind the wheel. “When you’re shipping a commodity, the trucking company should be looking at the drivers themselves…. You’ve got to make sure that you’re checking their background, checking their previous employers. Would the previous employer rehire them, or are they glad they’re gone?”
If the targets for theft vary, so too can the perpetrators and their methods. Here in Canada, cargo theft may be one part of the “business portfolio” for hardcore violent criminals—infamous gangster Bindy Johal bribed drivers in Surrey to rip off their own loads, worth about $20,000 on the street in his day (Johal ended up fatally shot in the head in a Vancouver nightclub in 1998). But trucking loads can also be the prey of highly organized specialists. Garry Robertson knows this only too well. He was with Peel Regional Police for years as a detective in auto theft and left in the ‘90s to open a private investigation company with a colleague, dealing sometimes with cargo theft and insurance crime. For him, the faces of the villains haven’t changed that much over his career. “Quite honestly, there are still players that I dealt with back then that are still around today.”
In the U.S., the thieves tend to work in groups of five to 20, according to Scott Cornell, national director of Travelers Investigative Services Specialty Investigations Group in Hartford, Connecticut.
Cornell says most cargo theft in the States remains a crime of opportunity; it’s not the fastest growing way, but still the most common. “How do they know what’s in it? Well, first answer is, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you can tell that they’ve shopped through the trailer.” Thieves can open and rummage through five or six trailers before they pick what they want. Other times, they might have inside information. “Sometimes they do surveillance on the warehouses. They see what’s being loaded, they know what’s being loaded, and then they follow that truck out until its first stop.” And then they wait… until the driver pulls into a rest stop and leaves his rig.
So much for “straight” cargo theft. Cornell also knows the scenarios for what he calls “strategic” cargo theft. Some thieves will go so far as to steal the identity of a legit trucking operation, go online to the load boards and make a bid in their victim’s name. A shipper innocently accepts the offer, and goodbye merchandise. “So then the legitimate trucking company will get a call a week later or a couple of days later, saying, ‘Hey, you picked up a load of widgets from us the other day, and we haven’t heard from you since,’ and the company says, ‘We’ve never picked up a load from you, we don’t know who you are, that wasn’t us.’ And then you realize that their identity has been stolen.”
In what Cornell labels “fictitious pickup,” the thieves learn where a scheduled load has to be picked up, show up hours early posing as the legitimate carrier, and off they go. Like something out of a heist movie, the real carriers then come along at the proper time—but far too late.
“Is that happening here?” asks Garry Robertson. “Absolutely it is.” In Quebec “not that long ago,” a thieves’ ring had “all the correct paperwork” with phony invoices but the right logos, letterhead and branding for a genuine carrier, right down to the proper markings for the truck they used. The beauty of that, he says, is that “they not only had all the information, but everything that was done was done properly. Drivers’ licenses were exchanged… photo ID taken.” Fake, fake—all fakes.
“Bad guys can be legitimate on paper.”
Then there’s the “misdirected load.” Scott Cornell says the “bad guys can be legitimate on paper,” forming a front company. Once again, they do all the right things, bid on a load and then call up the customer to say, “Hey, we’re in transit, the driver’s having some difficulty with his tractor, he’s going to pull in and get some repairs. We might be a little bit behind schedule, but no problems, we just wanted to let you know….”
Then our villains actually “bobtail in” to get some repairs done, having committed minor sabotage—a belt or a hose, something minimal—all while another member of the group takes care of the trailer. And the driver, who happens to be in on the job, has his very plausible alibi, a genuine bill for the repair job.
The tactics are getting increasingly sophisticated. And Barry Peabody says planning has to be done along the way to figure out the best practice for securing loads and equipment. “Do you just pull over into a parking lot of a shopping mall with no security around you whatsoever, or do you find areas of high visibility? Do you back your trailer up against a wall so the doors can’t get opened, or do you leave it sitting out…?”
After all, a truck can be stolen in minutes—and there’s money to be made even in selling the tractor-trailer. “You know, there’s some security you can get. You can put a kingpin lock on there to stop anybody else from coupling up to your trailer, but… they can open up the back doors of your trailer, and it’s very possible that they could be in and out there in a very short period of time. Now, do they travel around with forklifts if they’ve got to move pallets? No, they don’t, but if you’ve got a load of iPad Minis valued at $700 a pop, and you’ve got 10 minutes, you could pull an awful lot of boxes out of there and be gone.”
Peabody says most insurers haven’t looked at their product since the ‘70s, and yet the trucking industry has changed enormously since that time. “The quality of the trailer is tighter, stronger. The doors are better, and they seal better. The suspension is more reliable, so you don’t have as many vehicles falling into ditches because the suspension gives out. The refrigeration unit that might be on trailers, these things are all controlled now by computers and monitored through the GPS systems and the cellular systems.”
Peabody’s own firm, SGI, has been as guilty as the rest, he admits, of not keeping up to date to meet the concerns of trucking customers. The company is trying to rectify that with its product, Cargo Secure, which offers new features such as coverage for load contamination. Thieves got a head start, but it sounds like the industry is at last catching up.
Meanwhile, the cops keep pace as well. As we go to press, Detective Sergeant Paul LaSalle says one individual from the raids in May has been charged so far with possession of stolen goods over $5,000, with other charges pending. His force is building its case against those in charge of the theft operation. The police know who the crooks are and are closing in. End of the road, no exit…
FreightWatch International is warning that we may be seeing a new trend of cargo thieves attempting to use jamming devices to defeat tracking devices.
On July 22, a tractor and trailer hauling pharmaceutical products was stolen from a truck stop in Cartersville, Georgia. The truck was equipped with at least one tracking device concealed within the cargo. Evidence suggests that the thieves attempted to deploy two separate jamming devices to interrupt the communication of possible tracking devices on the shipment.
The jamming was unsuccessful and law enforcement was able to track the shipment and recover the product intact. There were no arrests, though the investigation continues.
FreightWatch notes that this incident follows closely on the heels of another, in which suspected cargo thieves were apprehended in possession of jamming equipment in Brevard County, Florida, on June 26.
"These two incidents may indicate the beginning of a trend in which cargo thieves are attempting to utilize jammer devices in the U.S. as a counter-measure to covert GPS tracking," says the company, which sells cargo security tools but also tracks and analyzes cargo thefts and trends.
"While the recent jamming events have not proven to be successful, the use of jamming technology represents a potential challenge to the theft recovery process and should be taken seriously," FreightWatch says.
"Outside the U.S., jamming technology has been used by cargo thieves for some time and there are effective risk mitigation techniques deployed in those regions. If the risk of jamming in the U.S. quickly escalates, security programs will need to evolve to address the increased risk in the regions affected."
Vulnerability of port computers are a security risk that could lead to massive thefts and attacks
SUPPLY CHAIN SECURITY BRIEF: Layered security solutions needed for radioactive and other dangerous shipments in Mexico.
A multi-million-dollar robbery sees truckloads of phones, tablets and laptops stolen.
By Jon Gold
A Samsung factory in Brazil was robbed of at least $6.3 million in hardware by a gang of about 20 armed people at around midnight on Monday, according to reports from local media.
The Samsung facility is located in Campinas, a city of roughly 1 million people located about 60 miles northwest of São Paulo. Brazilian police told O Globo that the criminals stopped a van full of employees on the way to the facility, used their stolen ID badges to gain entry, and kept two of the victims as hostages.
Hundreds of workers on-site went about their jobs during three hours in which the gang was essentially in charge of the factory. The thieves eventually left, in seven separate trucks, with 40,000 items – mostly phones, tablets and laptops – taken from the facility’s distribution center. Samsung said the value of the stolen goods is about $6.3 million, although police said that the value was actually more like $36 million.
Early indications are that the thieves may have had inside help – police told ZDNet that the gang was well-informed as to the location of particularly valuable goods.
According to Folha da São Paulo, this isn’t the first time that Samsung has been the target of this type of theft – an incident last year saw 900 cell phones, worth about $630,000, stolen. That load was partially recovered, however. That same report noted that the Campinas area is apparently a popular one for cargo thieves, with São Paulo police dubbing it “the Bermuda Triangle.”
Law and order has been difficult for Brazilian authorities to maintain of late, with widespread street protests against governmental policy and the World Cup, which is currently in its final stages. Discontent has spread online as well, in the form of DDoS attacks against the World Cup’s sponsors and organizers.
This story, "Thieves Steal 40,000 Gadgets From Samsung Factory in Brazil" was originally published by NetworkWorld . Original Article Here
TORONTO - Over $1 million worth of merchandise that was stolen during transportation to various retailers has been recovered, York Regional Police said Friday.
Investigators with the auto and cargo theft unit recovered 15 loads of lifted cargo from warehouses in Vaughan and Toronto that had included baby products, barbecues, tools, musical instruments and forklifts.
Police said they had been investigating the case since early May after they received a tip about significant losses of goods from trucks.
Police also said that most of the goods have been returned to owners.
The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information should contact police at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 6651 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, online at www.1800222tips.com or by texting a message beginning with the word ``YORK`` to CRIMES (274637).
GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) — Viking Range is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the theft of a semi-trailer load of Viking products valued at between $250,000 and $300,000.
Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks tells The Greenwood Commonwealth (http://bit.ly/1pme5ap ) that sometime over the weekend someone cut the lock on the gate at Viking's distribution center on U.S. Highway 82, where a loaded trailer was sitting.
Banks says the thief or thieves brought a tractor and hauled the items away.
Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Crime Stoppers Inc. is adding $1,000 to the reward and Banks' department is offering $2,000 — for a total of $28,000.
Banks said the semi-trailer was intended to be taken to Memphis for shipment by rail to Viking distributors in Washington state.
Information from: The Greenwood Commonwealth, http://www.gwcommonwealth.com
Constable Trevor Archibald, who works as a detective in the Ottawa Police's auto theft unit, talks about how cargo crime is perceived and what the trucking industry can do to fight back
June 24, 2014
by Carolyn Gruske
TORONTO, Ont. – In the grand scheme of things, Trevor Archibald knows that there is no way to be completely successful at his job, but rather than discouraging him, he turns each small, individual victory into a driving force that renews his enthusiasm for his work.
Archibald is a detective in auto theft unit of the Ottawa Police Service, and as such, it often falls upon him and his colleagues to investigate cargo thefts. As a police officer, Archibald knows that there will never be an end to crime. Property theft will always be an attractive option for the less-than-law-abiding element in society, but rather than be frustrated by the reality of the situation, Archibald is philosophical about the nature of the job.
“What we do, at the investigative level, is make people aware we are disrupting the activities of organized crime. That’s what we’re going to do. We are going to continue to disrupt their activity. To think we’ll stop it is a little dreamy, a little ambitious, but we’ll be interrupting it.
“It’s an endless pursuit. There is no end. We are not marching towards a finish line. It keeps advancing. It keeps being a certain distance away. That’s frustrating. But the results generate enthusiasm. They keep the motivation going. I don’t think in my tenure we’ve come across a loss of enthusiasm or a will to persevere, although I could see it happening: if you put me in a fraud section I would be more discouraged. You’re doing bounced cheques for ten years. They’re never ever going to stop.
“In some sense it is like being a postal worker. The mail is always going to come through. It never stops. Crime is always going to continue. But that’s the job—is to disrupt all these people’s ability to do it.”
Archibald was in Toronto to share his expertise and perspective at a recent symposium on cargo crimes. Afterward, in an exclusive interview with Truck News he spoke about why cargo theft is so hard to prevent and what the industry can do to make itself less vulnerable to thieves and robbers.
First though, he wanted to explain exactly how cargo crimes are classified and handled. He said because of their nature, it is very easy for cargo thefts to be categorized in ways that don’t make them easy to track. It also means the goods that are stolen aren’t the main focus of his investigations.
“In auto theft unit, our mandate is specifically vehicle theft for profit. If a facility is broken into and a load is stolen from a trailer, but the trailer is never moved, that would fall under the investigative scope of break and enters. We deal with the vehicle and the subsequent load theft because the vehicle is stolen. The break and enter squad doesn’t really work as an organized crime unit, although break-ins are pretty organized, they are typically not run by crime networks, big well-established organized crime.
“There are a lot of load thefts that would be reported as break-ins. That wouldn’t be captured [in cargo theft statistics] because the first thing we would look for would be the vehicle theft, the trailer theft itself. Then the value is another issue, because the value of the load is often not known at the time of the report. So it can get misclassified as theft over $5,000 or theft under $5,000 very easily if there is no value established.”
Archibald insists that cargo theft rings are part of an organized crime problem—cargo stolen from the Ottawa area almost always makes its way through criminal networks based in Montreal—but if a cargo theft is assigned to the break and enter division, Ottawa Police Service’s intelligence unit (which is responsible for organized crime investigations) doesn’t oversee the case.
Because cargo thefts can be assigned to different groups of investigators, Archibald says that they are had to track. Officially, Ottawa police counted five reported cargo thefts in 2013. But he knows that number is far from indicative as to how much cargo is stolen. In reviewing the cases before making his presentation, Archibald and his colleagues discovered a sixth cargo crime in the records that hadn’t been classified as such. When he attempts to account for the unreported thefts, the number of incidents per year jumps significantly.
“I think 20 would be very reasonable to predict. Just on a quick search we missed one. We found five, and we missed one, so we missed one of six. Maybe we missed another in looking for these stats, and then all the unreported ones. So only 35% are reported, then that gives you 20 real easy. I think 35% is a fair number of what is reported, but I couldn’t source that statistic.”
(In total, Archibald reports the six stolen loads had a value of approximately $150,000 in total, with the highest value load accounting for nearly $100,000 of that amount.)
By not reporting cargo thefts to the police, Archibald says shippers are making things easier for the criminals. He doesn’t say a reluctance to talk about cargo crime makes trucking companies any more vulnerable to being victimized, but “I think it makes the industry still vulnerable. I don’t know if it makes it more vulnerable because without the police being involved, they are going it alone. They are taking on this fight against this crime problem without much help from police, and the support network that comes with having law enforcement aware of the problem.”
Additionally, by keeping quiet and not reporting thefts, Archibald believes that the trucking industry is short-changing itself from benefitting from available resources.
“The squeaky wheel does get oil a lot of the times. If the industry and the major stakeholders were to speak up and say they are suffering these losses and they are victims, I think at a certain level of complaint, it may get some address from policing as a profession or as a field. It might get more support from law enforcement if it gets screamed and squawked about. If nobody complains, then the police are led to believe everything is fine. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got an informant network that says this crime is happening if you have no victim, because you have to come forward to be a victim. You’re only a victim if you care about it.”
Even if police departments wish to do more about preventing cargo crime and want to spend more resources to recover stolen goods, Archibald says they are at least somewhat subject to the demands of public opinion, and right now, the public really doesn’t care too much about load heists, which makes it difficult for police departments to justify the allocation of resources to tackle the problem.
“Property crime is so low on the priority scale, typically because it has been and likely will be for a long time viewed as a victimless crime, because there is no violence, there is no sex, there are no drugs—which is a fallacy because there is a ton of drugs in the trucking business.
“Stealing 53 feet of diapers, how sexy of a file is that? Nobody cares about that. Not nobody, but it’s not going to sell one newspaper, let alone a lot. If we stop that and have a big press conference and sit there with our flags on that table, and say we recovered 60 million diapers, newspapers and the public at large, would rather hear we infiltrated a drug network and got 50 pounds of marijuana. They all want to hear that more—the regular citizen would rather here we got drugs off the street than we recovered 2,000 fire extinguishers.”
Beyond getting the public interesting the fight against cargo theft, Archibald says that with all of the demands put on the police these days, it is difficult to give officers sufficient training to allow them to confidently and capably deal with cargo theft situations. In particular he says the averaged uniformed officer on the street has “zero” education about load thefts.
“It’s a huge problem. It gets worse because the willingness to stop a semi with a trailer on it is very low. I was in traffic for four years, and I did a handful of stops of heavy trucks—a handful in four years. So a regular street cop can go five years of doing break-in calls and other calls, and your boss expects you to get a couple of tickets. You’re not going to pull over the 18-wheeler. It’s not going to be the one. They’re intimidating as hell for somebody who doesn’t do it every day. So the probability of detection for the thief is so low that it’s almost no risk.”
He adds that getting officers interested in cargo crime is an uphill battle given all of the other issues they are faced with on a daily basis.
“How do you make a captive audience? You can’t force somebody to want to receive that information. At a certain point there is an overload. You are asking officers who are just bombarded with demands and requests and responsibilities, as soon as you give them some information or knowledge, it’s another thing they’re think they’re expected to engage in, and it’s hard to get buy-in for something that is almost optional. That kind of enforcement is almost optional.”
Archibald says that the fact that cargo theft isn’t perceived to be a sexy crime or a crime that is high on anybody’s priority list doesn’t help spur officers to invest a lot of time becoming proficient solving cargo thefts.
“If you were to recover 53-feeth worth of whatever, let’s say cheese, you’re probably looking at a $50,000 or $100,000 recovery. It looks great for a minute. It looks great for 30 seconds to your boss who says, ‘Great, excellent. You did a good job getting back that $100,000 worth of cheese. Now I need a couple more stops on tickets.’
“It’s our job, and I don’t think the fanfare that comes from these recoveries feeds the desire to want to do it, and if it does, it’s probably the wrong person doing the job, if that’s the motivation. To motivate somebody to want to be involved stopping trucks and increasing detection, I don’t know how you do that. I’m already motivated for it, where I’m not motivated for some of the other investigative stuff.”
Another problem encountered by police officers looking to learn more about specialized subjects like cargo crime is a policy that is used by many police forces (including Ottawa’s) that rotates officers out of specialized details and moves them into other departments on a frequent basis. Typically, he says five years is a standard term on the job, although Archibald, who teaches about cargo crime at police college and who is on the board of directors of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators, managed to obtain a two-year extension. He said the loss of expertise as specialists are moved through the department makes it difficult for groups like the auto theft unit to experience any continuity and to pass along—or develop—expertise.
As to what advice he’d give trucking companies as to how to prevent becoming victims of a cargo theft, Archibald says the best thing they can is to take steps that make their particular businesses less inviting to those looking for an easy score.
“Vulnerability is the only thing I think members of the industry can address. If you make yourself less vulnerable, you are a less likely target. Security measures—today we talked about checking out your drivers’ criminal history, etc.—the more of those systems that are in place, I think they reduce the vulnerability to this because the next person will be more vulnerable. In a target-rich environment, there is no sense chasing the fastest. You chase the slowest. The cheetah always goes for the one at the back of the pack. That’s no different here. It’s easier to steal your money from a bank than to go to Fort Knox to get it.”
Security Brief from Lucena Group: Expansion in intra-Asian shipping could lead to increase in hijackings around Malaysia, Indonesia
By: HUB International Limited
Cargo theft and hijacking is on the rise in the United States, according to Freight Watch International. The total cost to the US economy has been estimated at approximately $300 billion, which includes the value of the stolen goods, resupply costs, opportunity costs, as well as insurance and law enforcement costs. The true costs of goods shipped are often undervalued as it is a critical part of more costly items or operations.
Organizations often have practices that invite unscrupulous predators to take advantage of them, including: