Cargo thieves nearly broke a record in 2013 by making off with 951 loads or partial loads. Exactly the same number of thefts set a new record in 2012, according to a report from FreightWatch International.
Thieves targeted pharmaceutical and food or drink loads at increased numbers last year. Pharmaceutical load theft rose 50 percent, and food and drink theft rose 34 percent. Food and drink loads have been the most commonly stolen type of cargo since 2010. The most frequently stolen products in this category are meat, energy drinks, soft drinks and produce. The category does not include alcoholic drinks.
The targeting of food may be due to lower security standards for food loads than for more valuable products such as electronics, according to FreightWatch.
While the theft of an entire vehicle or container accounted for 73 percent of the incidents in 2013, hijacking, which is not included in that category, is actually the least common type of theft. Deceptive pickup, a form of identity theft, is on the rise, coming in as the third most common form of cargo theft in 2013. Sixty-one incidents occurred during the year.
By state, California suffered the most losses, with 259 thefts last year. Rounding out the top five were Texas, Florida, Georgia and Illinois.
Photo source: FreightWatch International
By Jack Roberts @JackRobertsCCJ on February 21, 2014
Beyond employee education, preventive spec’ing of both power units and trailers is critical. “There are a lot of things you can do to make it tougher on the criminals,” such as modifying trailers in a variety of ways to make them tougher nuts to crack, says Carl Tapp, a retired maintenance director for P.A.M. Transportation, who now runs Solutions Advocates. “A lot of it depends on your budget,” he says.
Many measures can be carried out in a fleet’s shop by its own technicians, who can install a wide array of security measures such as satellite-controlled stainless-steel locking pins on the inside trailer doors, huck-bolted door hardware and frames, horizontal pins in the rear trailer bolster to reinforce the doors, aluminum roofs instead of translucent plexiglass, and brightly painted undercoating to help inspectors spot breaches in the trailer floor.
What you can teach your drivers to do on the road to prevent becoming a cargo theft victim, such as not talking about their loads, and what they should do if they think they're being ...
Communication is vital to combating theft, and today’s technology makes tracking shipments and reacting to issues easier and timelier. Tapp urges fleets to look into both passive and active communications systems between the truck and the home office – technologies that Prime also values.
“You have more virtual eyes and ears out there on the road than ever before,” says Nick Erdmann, business development manager for Transport Security Inc. “When you look at all the systems available to fleets today – things like real-time communication, telematics and geofencing and monitoring systems for both trucks and trailers – they have more tools to help them fight theft than ever before.”
But one of the most effective anti-theft tools Boehning has seen is a much more obvious low-tech method: a professional-grade padlock on the trailer doors. “I’m constantly amazed at how many unlocked trailers I see running down the roads today,” he says. “Our number-one thing is our trailers are always locked, even if they’re hauling air.”
Tapp agrees that seal integrity is vital. If a seal has to be broken for repairs or a police check, establish procedures so that everybody knows about it. Record the numbers of both the seal that came off and its replacement, Tapp says.
Fleets also should consider reaching out to and nurturing partnerships with law enforcement agencies across the country. Walt Fountain, director of safety and enterprise security for Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider National, advises fleets to attend one of several regional cargo theft prevention conferences where they can learn ways to improve their anti-theft measures and training and build a nationwide network for law enforcement assistance.
Above all, Tapp urges fleets not to be complacent about combating theft. “Crooks are smart,” he says. “No matter what you do, they’re going to figure out a way to defeat it. It’s a constant process, and you can never let up.”
Tapp also reminds fleets of an entirely different reason why drivers are a key element to consider when fighting cargo theft. “I hate to say this, but I think a lot of cargo theft cases are inside jobs,” he says. “Treat your drivers right. They do a tough job day in and day out. If you acknowledge that and pay them a fair wage, they’re going to be less likely to steal from you.”
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The level of cargo thefts from trucking is nearly unchanged over the past three months but the average value of the thefts has risen dramatically.
The logistics security services provider, FreightWatch International, reports from May through July it recorded a total of 185 thefts in the United States. The average loss value per incident during this period was $147,260. Compared with the previous quarter, thefts increased by 1%, while the average loss value increased by 23%.
Food and drinks was the product type most often stolen in this rolling quarter, comprising 25% of all incidents during the three-month period. The electronics industry experienced 13% of the total, while 12% of all thefts were in the building/industrial sector, including shingles, construction materials and equipment.
California remained the state with the most thefts, with Texas continuing to follow in second. The thefts in California accounted for 25% of all incidents across the United States. Texas had 16% of the total, while Illinois reported 14%, making it the third most popular state for cargo theft. Florida dropped from third position to number four, having experienced 11% of thefts in the rolling quarter.
Following the usual trend, incidents involving theft of trailer/container, were most common, accounting for 76% of all thefts. Thefts involving deceptive pickup remained the same as the previous three months, comprising 9% of all thefts.
While the average loss value across all incidents was $161,676 for the quarter, the average losses in specific product types varied widely. The alcohol category had the highest average loss value at $481,108, a 547% increase of over the last rolling quarter. Clothing/shoes, which experienced nine thefts, averaged $397,333 in losses. Cosmetics/consumer care followed with an average loss value of $320,000 resulting from three high-value thefts. Tobacco saw a drop, from $315,008 last rolling quarter to $254,400 this quarter.
By: Nick Erdmann
Cargo theft has impacted nearly every industry, from paper products to electronics. Experts estimate that cargo and equipment theft costs stakeholders $30 billion to $50 billion annually worldwide, although there are no records of these thefts, so this number is just an estimate.
Security is a necessity today. With the nation on heightened alert, the transportation and air cargo industries must be prepared. By its very nature, the airfreight sector places goods in a more vulnerable environment than when they are at a shipper’s or receiver’s facility. It’s not like having your goods in a warehouse; you cannot post a security guard, install lights and a closed-circuit TV system, or build a fence around your freight.
Expensive freight is moved along highways and by air and sea everyday, and security procedures and devices are becoming more necessary for carriers and other companies involved in transporting goods. Today, many security-conscious firms have taken steps to combat theft of their equipment and products.
Although there are some trends in what type of commodities are stolen, theft has affected nearly every type of product from childrens’ toys to pharmaceuticals. Some cargo categories that are especially vulnerable include electronics, metals, apparel, pharmaceuticals, appliances and auto parts.
The traditional days and times of cargo theft occur during the weekend period; holiday weekends also tend to be attract a higher rate of theft due to facilities sometimes being dark for a longer period of time with limited personnel.
Geography also also has a lot to do with theft. Among all transportation types in the U.S., 12 states — among them, California, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, New York and Illinois — account for 80 percent of all freight theft. What’s more, a number of cargo thefts occur in the trucking industry when the vehicle transporting cargo is stopped in an unsecured location. A good rule of thumb is “freight at rest is freight at risk.”
Typical areas for these types of theft include truck stops, unsecured drop yards and restaurant/shopping center parking lots. Terminals and distribution center yards are now becoming a more popular target as well, illustrating a need by companies to provide security within these areas.
All stakeholders that bear the burden of cargo should be involved in the security process as much as they can, as they all share in the monetary loss should a load go missing.
Shippers need to take care in selecting their transportation partners. They should also consider the implications of supply chain/logistics decisions. Requesting specific delivery times narrows down the options available to the trucking company and driver. If you want a relatively local shipment to arrive at a specific destination early in the morning, this may well cause a driver to pick up the load the previous day in order to make the narrow appointment window.
It is important for companies to familiarize themselves with local and national law enforcement agencies. Taking the time to meet these agencies — specifically the personnel involved with investigating cargo theft — is important for the recovery of your product and assets. There are several cargo theft task forces in Illinois, Georgia, Florida, California, Tennessee and Texas that specifically focus on cargo-theft crimes. Networking with these groups is important, as they receive intel everyday on stolen loads and can assist in finding missing goods if they are reported in a timely fashion.
There are many measures companies can take to secure their freight whether they are shipping by land, sea or air. Security of products is every company’s responsibility. Knowing that cargo theft is a real issue in the supply chain is the first step; combating the problem with security solutions, intel, law enforcement involvement and analytics is the next step.
By: Nancy Germond
Insurance and Risk Management and Finance
Cargo theft is on the rise in the United States. Stealing trucking freight has become, according to Truckers News, the "signature crime of the early 21st century."
Even as cargo theft by volume in Europe decreased, the value of the stolen cargo has increased. At the same time, in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, and other South American countries, the volume of cargo being stolen has continued to increase, according to Freight Watch International. As the holiday shipping frenzy approaches in the United States in September, risk managers must remain vigilant to keep their valuable cargo protected and their drivers safe from increasingly sophisticated cargo thieves.
Managing Your Cargo-Theft Risks
Today’s risk managers and supply chain professionals implement best management practices to avoid the theft of valuable cargo. Here are a few of their tips.
Invest in quality equipment and driving training. A well-trained driver is more aware of the danger signs and will avoid risky situations, like leaving a trailer unattended. If drivers must leave a trailer, use a high-quality kingpin lock which covers the yoke that attaches to the tractor.
Place covert tracking devices in cargo loads. Some of the tracking devices are so small they can fit into a pill bottle, providing a current location at any point in the load’s journey. Companies can rent these devices during peak shipping seasons.
With high-value shipments such as pharmaceuticals, many companies use two-driver teams and hire security vehicles to follow the truck.
Certain days of the week and the type of cargo pose greater risks for theft. Weekends are the riskiest, with more thefts occurring on Sunday than any other day of the week. Over half the thefts in one three-year period occurred on the weekends.
Consumer electronics, food, and apparel were the top three loads stolen, as cited in that study.
Train drivers to avoid rest areas and truck stops when possible. In that same study, 39 percent of the thefts occurred in these locations, with 27 percent occurring at yards operated by trucking or rail companies or steamship lines.
While hijackings represented just 3 percent of losses, it's vital to train your drivers how to respond appropriately if they are hijacked -- good training may save their lives. International Management Assistance Corporation offers a course for drivers designed to increase their awareness about truck hijacking.
One expert stated as many as 80 percent of cargo thefts involve insiders. I spoke to former freight manager for an international shipping firm who served time in federal prison for his role in a cargo theft of electronics. He summed up the theft in these words: “The internal security was lax. Monitor those who have access to large amounts of freight,” he recommended.
Also examine and remain vigilant about your employees’ lifestyles and backgrounds. If you hire a person who demonstrates a solid work record but has financial problems, develops a grudge against your company, or who affiliates with criminals, your company will be at increased risk. That employee may leak critical information to those associates. Don’t simply rely on your adjuster to handle the loss; investigate each loss internally to determine if any in-house problems contributed to the theft.
Preparing for the "New Normal"
Experts predict a continued increase in cargo theft. Organized criminal enterprises face less jail time when they steal cargo than when they undertake other crimes like drug sales. To keep drivers safe, protect cargo, and reduce supply-chain disruptions, risk managers need to get used to dealing with this "new normal" for cargo-theft crimes.
Insurance is available for cargo theft and the supply chain disruption, but the most important element to cargo theft is keeping your drivers protected. It is not only your duty under OSHA to provide training for risks inherent to your work environment, it is the right thing to do.
Boosting trucks laden with pharmaceuticals is a low-tech, low-risk road to riches for organized criminals
By Daniel Grushkin
At twilight on June 17, 2009, Ricky Gene McNew pulled his plum-red big rig into a TravelCenters of America (TA) truck stop in Denmark, Tenn. McNew had been driving all afternoon, starting from Louisville (Ky.), and hauling $10 million in pharmaceuticals. He was bound for Memphis, to the warehouse of a medical supply wholesaler. McNew filled his tank and headed into the truck stop for a shower. When he came out, his truck was gone.
The thieves had stolen goods worth about 100 times the average taken in a bank robbery, and there wasn't a single witness. McNew's cell phone had been inside the truck, along with the spare key, so he had to go into the cashier to call his dispatcher. The dispatcher called the owner of the trucking company, Steadfast Transcontinent.
Thus began a chain reaction that threatened the nation's drug supply. The drugs were owned by the U.S. division of Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma. It was Astellas's first experience with a stolen truck, and a shock to the company's directors. On the advice of the Food & Drug Administration, they started calling everyone in the supply chain that night, from wholesalers to hospitals, to warn them that the stolen drugs might surface in their facilities. The lost truck had contained 18 pallets with 21 different medicines. They were concerned about the release of all the medicines, but an immunosuppressant called Prograf was especially troubling. The drug prevents patients from rejecting transplanted organs such as hearts, livers, and kidneys. The pills are sensitive to temperature and humidity, and if left in an uncooled trailer or warehouse, can fail and result in major complications for a transplant recipient.
Within a week, Astellas withdrew all the drugs on the marketplace from the same lots as those on the stolen load. Pills—even legitimate ones—in drugstores and hospitals nationwide had to be destroyed. The $10 million theft ballooned into a $47 million loss. It wiped out 10 percent of the company's North American sales for the quarter—a sudden, multimillion-dollar setback that's becoming increasingly common for companies who rely on America's highways.
FreightWatch International, an Austin-based cargo security firm, collected reports of $425 million in stolen cargo in the U.S. last year. Conversations with numerous FBI employees suggest thieves could be making off with far more, with estimates ranging from $10 billion to $30 billion a year.
"You name it, they're taking it," says Susan Chandler, executive director of the American Trucking Assn.'s Supply Chain Security and Loss Prevention Council. "Do I think there's a surge? Absolutely."
With more than 2 million trucks on the road in the U.S., some 63 percent of all freight travels in trailers. Thieves exploit the weak links in this supply chain, including poorly guarded warehouses and truckers who fail to heed shipping rules. McNew, for example, had told the police that he knew he was supposed to fuel up before leaving the warehouse, in order to be able to outrun would-be thieves, but he left with the tank a quarter full and had to stop, the police said.
The biggest vulnerability, however, is a lack of coordination across jurisdictions. Police departments are geared for local crime, but when the target and the crook are both passing through, the location of the theft becomes incidental. By the time patrolmen begin investigating the lost trailer, the truck is likely out of the county. If a criminal is arrested, the sentences are often so light that many county attorneys don't bother prosecuting.
"The problem is that it's so lucrative and the risk is so low," says Ed Petow, the former commander of the Tomcats, a task force in Miami-Dade County that unites local and state police detectives with federal agents to combat cargo crime.
"By comparison, every bank robbery in the U.S.—whether they take $10 or $10 million—is ultimately investigated by the FBI," says Chuck Forsaith, chairman of the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition. "Cargo theft is different. A tractor-trailer stolen in Opelika, Ala., with $10 million in fragrances, or pharmaceuticals, or tobacco—you know who's going to investigate that? The midnight guy in the Opelika P.D."
Though it can be hard to estimate the full extent of cargo theft—defined by the FBI as goods stolen mainly from trucks but sometimes from shipping containers, cargo planes, and warehouses—the boosting of freight in transit is clearly on the rise. FreightWatch reports a 30 percent increase in heists since 2007.
Nearly half of all cargo thefts are committed by organized specialists, Petow says. A number of these, according to Petow and members of the FBI, are carried out by a syndicate based in South Florida, many of them Cuban. These crews roam the country's interstates, targeting trucks carrying cosmetics, designer clothes, and electronics. The crews average $471,000 a load, according to FreightWatch intelligence director Dan Burgess.
Pharmaceuticals, however, are the top prize. An average stolen truckload of drugs is worth $3.8 million, according to Burgess, and in the past five years, the number of pharmaceutical cargo thefts has multiplied more than four times. According to officials in the FDA office of criminal investigations, the thieves often pair with launderers who channel stolen or counterfeit prescription drugs, sometimes expired, back into the market. Only a week before the Astellas load disappeared, a patient walked into The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston with abnormal glucose levels. The Novo Nordisk (NVO) insulin (branded as Levemir) he had bought at a local pharmacy had failed. It had come from a trailer stolen in Conover, N.C.
In March 2010, thieves pulled off the highest-value cargo theft in history, in a night raid on an Eli Lilly (LLY) warehouse in Enfield, Conn. They cut a hole in the roof and rappelled down to avoid the security system. Once inside, they disabled the alarms, then pulled a tractor-trailer to the loading bay and cleaned the warehouse of $76 million in antidepressants, including Prozac and Cymbalta. The police never found the drugs or the trailers.
"I don't call them cargo thieves. I call them entrepreneurs," says Petow. "In cases where we've been able to track stolen cargo, it pretty much mirrored the legitimate export process. The best guess—and it's strictly a guess—is that 50 percent of the stolen goods are exported to South America and the rest redistributed inside the country."
Walt Robinson, 46, is a detective on the Palm Beach Auto Theft Task Force. He stands 6 feet, 2 inches, with a salt-and-pepper goatee and a military haircut, and favors a polo shirt and cargo pants, along with a utility belt holding handcuffs, a flashlight, a badge, and a Glock. In the back of his SUV, he keeps two lockers stocked neatly with items such as grease cleaner, steel brushes, and screwdrivers, which he uses to scrape away the grit obscuring vehicle identification numbers on stolen trucks. When he's done, he wipes his tools clean and places them carefully in their designated drawers.
As the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office detective charged with investigating cargo theft, Robinson has had his hands full since 2008. Thieves weren't only targeting out-of-state haulers. They were picking off easy hits around town. Between 2007 and 2008, the incidence of trailer thefts in Palm Beach rose from three to 22.
"That's when I really opened my eyes to cargo theft," says Robinson. Contacts at the Tomcats, the cargo theft task force, taught him that crews of four travel in two rental cars—rented, because the plates are harder to track—and a "bobtail," a truck without a trailer. Their pursuit often begins when a rig leaves the manufacturer. The average trucker takes a load 500 miles, giving the thieves a number of opportunities along the way. If the driver steps away, a thief can break in and drive away within two minutes. All it takes is a dent puller, which is normally used to smooth dings from car bodies, and a flathead screwdriver (total price on Amazon: $19.69). The thief yanks the ignition key cylinder out with the dent puller, and then twists it with the screwdriver as if that were the key.
The first half-hour is the riskiest. The thief must travel far enough from the truck stop to switch the trailer to his own bobtail, then paint over any logos on the trailer and disable the GPS transmitters with which most trucks are equipped. With all that done, the trailer can't be tracked, and if the truck does get pulled over by police, the driver has the proper paperwork and no identifying marks on the trailer.
Catching a thief in the act boils down to luck—being at the right truck stop at the right time. In order to shut down an operation, detectives focus on the warehouses where stolen goods get stowed. "Put yourself in the thieves' shoes," says Alex Peraza, an FBI special agent based in Miami and a member of the Tomcats. "Once they steal it, where the hell do they put the thing?"
In April 2007, before the Astellas load went missing, Robinson received a tip from detective Willie Morales of the Miami-Dade County Police Dept. A member of the Tomcats, Morales had just returned from an East Texas jail, where he'd interrogated a cargo theft ringleader who had been in a cell for two weeks waiting to post bail. The man was angry, not at the police, but at his own gang; they had refused to give money to his wife and newborn baby while he was in jail.
Crews like these are tight, according to Petow. They abide by a pact that if one gets caught, the others help. They post bond, pay for a lawyer, and most important, take care of the family. The leader had been betrayed, and his revenge came as an account of his crew and their operations.
The jailed informant, whose name has been withheld at the request of Morales, said he'd been replaced by his partner, Armando Canaura. Canaura lived in Robinson's jurisdiction, in an unassuming single-story beige home with a stone façade, a manicured lawn, and a white pickup in the driveway. At that time there was no known link between Canaura and the missing Astellas pharmaceuticals.
As further thefts occurred, Morales's network of informants on the Miami black market said the goods came out of Canaura's alleged network. The trick was to find his warehouse, and that meant studying Canaura—where he went, whom he spent time with, what he did. Robinson convinced his boss, Lieutenant Mike Wingate, to lend him all eight members of Palm Beach's Auto Theft Task Force to stake out Canaura.
According to Robinson, Canaura's associates had one thing in common. At one time or another, they had all used his address as their own. Robinson couldn't prove it, but he suspected that the men joined the theft ring in exchange for being smuggled into the country. "They would come through him and then they'd owe him. That's how he'd recruit guys for work," says Robinson.
That's common, according to Morales. The 1996 Cuban Adjustment Act grants asylum to any Cuban who sets foot in the U.S., and young men willingly risk incarceration for a way into the country. "They'll start out as lumpers offloading trucks," says Morales, "then move up to going around the country on heists. They have no past, so in most places they'll be able to bond out if they're caught, and they can't be deported."
While the other detectives investigated Canaura's associates, Robinson says he parked his car in a cul-de-sac opposite Canaura's home, just behind a row of high bushes. For nine hours a day, Robinson recorded the numbers on the plates of the cars that continually pulled up to Canaura's house. When his shift ended, another detective in another unmarked car would replace him. People went in and they went out, but the shades on Canaura's windows were always closed. No one even took the trash out.
When he wasn't on stakeout, Robinson made his way through records of phone calls intercepted at cell towers, hoping to tie Canaura or one of his men to the scene of a theft. In his office, Robinson built a criminal hierarchy, putting together a chart over his desk of Canaura and his associates, most of whom lived nearby, noting their criminal records, spouses, properties, and finances.
Robinson began to draft what he believed was a modus operandi for Canaura. The trailers were mostly stolen in Tennessee, Kentucky, and sometimes Texas. Logos were always painted over. The tractor was abandoned immediately, and the goods were always high value.
From his car, Robinson would sometimes watch Canaura—thickset and bald, with a jutting forehead and acne scars over his cheeks—lug a fishing rod and cooler of bait over to the canal. He often wore an old T-shirt, a loose-fitting pair of shorts, and flip-flops. He never seemed to have to go to work.
After three weeks, the investigation started to peter out, and the recruited detectives drifted back to their own cases. Canaura never seemed to go anywhere but his brother Jose's house down the street, or fishing. To save manpower, Robinson requested a court order to hide a tracking device on Canaura's pickup. To install it, the police would need to steal the vehicle and install the beacon back at their own garage. The operation became more difficult when Robinson got a call from his sergeant about a police run-in with Canaura.
On May 15, 2008, at about 10 p.m., a driver tried to tow Canaura's truck, which had been parked illegally on the street, according to the police report. The driver, Albert Lee Clark, was about to pull away with it on the back of his truck, when Canaura and six other men poured out of the house and surrounded his cab. They beat on the windows with their hands and yelled in Spanish. Clark, according to the report, watched Canaura cock a handgun and put it to his side. Within a few minutes, three policemen arrived.
A scuffle ensued, and ended with an officer shooting Canaura with a stun gun. Canaura pled guilty to improper exhibition of a weapon and resisting an officer.
Robinson made his move a few weeks later, at three o'clock in the morning. Two detectives from his cadre, detective Mike De Bree of the Delray Beach Police Dept. and Chris Suarez, an auto crimes detective with the Boca Raton police department, crawled into the scrub opposite the house. They lay flat and trained rifles on Canaura's front door, in case he burst out with a gun. From down the street, a detective snuck toward Canaura's truck. He tried to open the door with a specially made key, but he was so shaky he couldn't get the key in properly, according to De Bree. Robinson called the operation off.
For his next attempt Robinson paired with repo men, who towed Canaura's truck away in the middle of the night. The following morning Canaura called the police to report the vehicle stolen. Within days, an officer called back to say the vehicle had been found. Canaura didn't know it, but the truck returned loaded with a tracking beacon.
Again, "Canaura went nowhere," Robinson says, at least not in his truck. Robinson had been following Canaura for 18 months, and he had nothing.
Throughout, Robinson had spoken daily with the Tomcats. Among his contacts was Detective Juan Gross, a Tomcat veteran of 15 years who ran a web of informants that helped him track stolen goods. On Oct. 17, 2009, Gross passed on a solid lead. One of his informants had bought samples of cigarettes and Bacardi Select from a man driving a white Acura licensed to the wife of a man named Denis Perez De Castro, according to the affidavit for a search warrant Robinson would later request. Robinson recognized Castro's name; he had lived in Canaura's house. By looking at the packaging, Gross could tell that the cigarettes—including Marlboros, Camels, and Basics—came from a warehouse heist in Georgia three days earlier.
When the man in the Acura, not identified in the warrant, asked the informant to borrow his truck to transport the stolen cigarettes, Gross fitted the truck with a transmitter. He watched the beacon from his computer. On a map, a blinking dot left Miami and headed up the Florida Turnpike, past Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and Delray. At Palm Beach it turned inland into Loxahatchee, a town of farmers and horse breeders. The beacon located the truck within a radius of a few blocks.
According to property records, Castro's wife owned a second home in the town that sat opposite a preschool on Okeechobee Boulevard, a sandy street of farms that dead-ended at a drive-through safari park. It was a beige, single-family home with a chocolate brown roof, hidden behind a row of high bushes. It had a very large separate garage, big enough to conceal a trailer. When Robinson went up, he found two container trailers parked on the side lawn.
Three days later, Robinson assembled the Auto Theft Task Force in undercover cars and vans a few blocks from the house in a lot down the street. Robinson says Gross had told him that Castro had been peddling the cigarettes and rum in Miami again, but the buyer hadn't shown. Gross expected Castro to return to the warehouse with a full trailer. By 7 p.m. Robinson still didn't know whether or not Castro had returned. He hoped that the trailer was inside the garage. If they raided an empty house, the 18-month investigation would be destroyed. The element of surprise would be gone, and Robinson feared the operation would be rebuilt somewhere else. As Robinson tells it, his boss, Lieutenant Wingate, pressed him to serve the warrant anyway. Or as Wingate put it, "S—t or get off the pot, Robinson."
Wingate was asking Robinson to embrace chance, and that countered every one of his methodical steps to build the case. Finally he said, "Ah, you know what, f--k it, let's do it."
Just as Robinson started his car, a pickup truck followed by a tractor-trailer came down the road. Robinson pulled out behind the trailer, and followed them to the house.
The six undercover police cars pulled up around the truck, lights flashing. Robinson cuffed Castro, who argued that he was just on his way home. The other detectives charged out of their cars to secure the truck, the garage, and the house. Suarez and De Bree banged on the front door, and a Guatemalan man answered. Inside there were guys everywhere, drinking beer in front of a small television, sleeping in a closet, cooking in the kitchen. The detectives marched them outside onto the driveway and ordered them to sit.
De Bree moved to the garage where the detectives expected to find pallets of stolen goods. He unhinged the side door. The concrete and cinderblock husk of a room was empty except for a rusty forklift. The two trailers on the grass were empty, too. But when the detectives pulled the latch on the trailer hooked to the truck they found boxes stacked high with $2.3 million worth of cigarettes.
While the detectives examined the trailer, one of the men who was in the house slipped into a red Chevy. Suarez caught him before he could drive off. The man's name was Servando Gomez, and he turned out to be Castro's brother-in-law. As Suarez cuffed him, he noticed a bottle of Bacardi stuffed in a shopping bag on the passenger floorboard. "Is that yours?" Suarez asked.
"Someone gave it to me," Gomez said. Detective Suarez asked if he had more back at his home. "No," he said, and then added, "I'll show you." Suarez and three other detectives drove Gomez to his house, just a few blocks away. Together they walked up a little slope to the white stucco home. It was about 9 p.m. when Gomez introduced his wife, mother, and son to the group of detectives.
Inside, the detectives found Gomez had been bluffing. They discovered cell phones, razors, and lotions from stolen loads—in all, goods from nine out of the 22 trailers stolen in Palm Beach, according to Robinson. Gomez's wife pulled back the child safety gate that led to a small basement beside the garage, and Wingate went downstairs. There were 400 boxes of Astellas pharmaceuticals, including Prograf. "I think we've got the mother lode," Wingate said. Including the cigarettes and the pills, Robinson's team found $13 million in stolen goods.
In February 2011, after 16 months in the justice system, Gomez pleaded guilty in Palm Beach County Court to grand theft. He received three years' probation. Castro faces trial for grand theft in July; his lawyer did not return three calls for comment. His wife was not charged. Canaura, meanwhile, appeared to have slipped through Robinson's fingers, until November 2010, when four trailers were stolen from an Elizabeth Arden Distribution Center in Roanoke, Va. Three of the trailers were found abandoned in New Jersey. According to public sources, Canaura, along with his brother Jose and Castro (who was out on bail), were found in the back of a gardening center in Winchester, Va., painting over the logo on the fourth truck, which contained $63,000 in perfume.
Canaura is charged with grand larceny. "He hasn't been arraigned yet, so we don't have a plea," says his lawyer, Roger Inger. "So far, I guess, it's not guilty." He is expected to go to trial before a Frederick County jury in June.
Police continue to investigate nearly 20 men connected to the ring. Robinson has joined the Tomcats. He's now investigating a case with agents from the FBI. In Loxahatchee, a couple has moved into Castro's house. They've never heard of the theft, let alone the fact that they live at its epicenter. They have started a tomato farm on the field behind the warehouse. The trailers are gone.
Grushkin is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.
To Protect and Deliver : Practical and easy-to-implement steps can help prevent cargo theft and mitigate risk for shippers
By Salvatore Marino
After the holidays have past, manufacturers' warehouses are packed to capacity with inventory as a result of the biggest shopping spree of the year. This is the season when product moving through the supply chain is the most vulnerable. But the reason is not that security efforts become lackadaisical. The risk is greater simply due to sheer volume. We are shipping more to meet consumer needs; therefore, cargo thieves have more chances to steal from us.
Despite rising security threats, you do not have to become a victim of cargo theft, during the holidays or at any other time of the year. You can successfully mitigate your company's cargo theft risk by taking two important steps:
Certain organizations within the logistics industry collect large amounts of data surrounding cargo theft incidents. They can provide your company with analytics, investigative support and predictive modeling to improve risk management within the supply chain.
Preventive analytics can help your company carefully plan the safest routes for your goods, from origin to destination. Historical cargo theft data can help your company determine the best routes to take, cities to travel through and truck stops to use. By doing some homework, your company can significantly reduce its risk of cargo theft by "thieves of opportunity," who tend to be somewhat territorial, operating along the same roads and around the same rest areas daily.
Before moving any cargo, select a suitable carrier. You should interview any carrier that you choose to move your company's cargo, and that carrier should be able to demonstrate adherence to industry security best practices, such as background investigations of its drivers.
In addition, each driver who works for a carrier that your company uses should be educated on how to prevent cargo theft, and in the event of a theft, what action to take. When hauling a load for your company, a driver should:
The carrier should agree not to subcontract any jobs surrounding your shipments. Historically, cargo thieves set up bogus companies and post low rates on load boards to "legally" acquire access to shipments. By vetting your carriers prior to shipment, you eliminate the risk of potentially handing over your inventory to thieves.
The physical security of a conveyance is critical. The shipment, which could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, travels on open roads while being looked after by only one or two people. Physical security devices such as seals and GPS tracking devices will not stop a determined cargo thief, but they will deter a thief who may see your cargo as a target while parked in a rest area.
Your company should evaluate the type of security seals used to keep cargo secure while it's on the road in between facilities. Keep in mind that all security seals are meant to be opened; therefore, they serve more as a deterrent than a barrier to entry. Procure only high-security barrier seals from a reputable manufacture whose product adheres to standards set forth by ISO/PAS 17712. On trailers with barn-style doors, use a 3/16" steel cable seal that is long enough to wrap around both locking bars and can be cinched tight. Using a cable seal will prevent the left door from being opened during transit without compromising the seal. On trailers with roll-up doors, a 3/8" steel bolt seal should be sufficient. Corporate security personnel, not a driver, should apply the seals at the out-gate of your facility. Seal numbers should be recorded, acknowledged by the driver and forwarded electronically to the in-gate personnel at the destination facility for examination upon arrival.
Tracking on the Road
You should consider GPS tracking as another layer of on-the-road security. It is essential that your company know where its loads are at all times both for security and logistics purposes. Your carrier may tell you that it monitors every shipment by a satellite tracking system mounted in or on the tractor. While this type of system has its merits, it is designed to track truck diagnostics, truck location and driver behavior, not the trailer or cargo inside the trailer. Also, one of the first things that cargo thieves do when stealing a load is to disable this type of device by covering, disconnecting or destroying the satellite antenna.
GPS tracking technology has advanced appreciably over the past few years. Devices were once large and cumbersome and required an antenna mounted on the outside of the conveyance. Because of the high price tag, GPS tracking was seen as a tool only for companies moving extremely valuable product; it was not used in the mainstream commercial market.
However, GPS tracking devices are no longer large and expensive, and they don't require external antennas. Now as small as a wireless phone, tracking devices can be covertly packed within a pallet, have battery capacity to last a month, and are "smart" enough to alert the end-user when and if there is a problem. GPS devices can be purchased for as little as $400 per device, with a software and data package (per device) starting at $60 per month. Some companies can average this cost to be approximately $100 per shipment.
There are numerous benefits to remote monitoring of your company's cargo. GPS tracking makes you aware of cargo that remains too long in one location (remember: "cargo at rest is cargo at risk"). You are alerted if the conveyance carrying your cargo is opened or deviates from a predetermined route. If cargo containing a GPS tracking device is stolen and your company is using a reputable monitoring service, the police in that jurisdiction can receive the exact location of the stolen cargo, which will increase the likelihood of recovery.
Before You Ship
When an approved carrier arrives at your facility to pick up a shipment, employees working the gate should inspect the vehicle and trailer and record important information about the driver, tractor and trailer. This information can be used later in the event of a theft.
The integrity of the tractor and trailer is important. The first thing to note when the conveyance arrives is the overall appearance of the tractor. Does the truck have large amounts of rust on the body? Does the tractor have fiberglass damage? Does the tractor need new tires? Does the tractor look overused or dilapidated? If your employees answer "yes" to any of these questions, do not allow the truck to haul your shipment. Rust, fiberglass damage and balding tires can indicate the truck has not been properly cared for. When a truck carrying your product breaks down, it could sit on the side of the road for several hours before its cargo is transferred to another truck to continue its trip. Once again, the adage applies: "Cargo at rest is cargo at risk".
Next, your gate staff should inspect the trailer. Is the roof of the trailer damaged? Is the entire floor intact? Do the doors close and seal properly? Are the trailer's tires in good condition? Are all the lights on the trailer functioning? If your gate staff answers "no" to any of these questions, send the driver away. Roof damage, floor damage and door issues could be an indication that the trailer has not been properly cared for, which could result in a breakdown. Also, it is not good practice to transport product inside trailers damaged by overuse, neglect or bridge collisions because of the possibility of weather damage.
Make sure the tractor's fuel tanks are full. Crime data show a significant amount of cargo thefts occur within 200 miles of the origin facility. The driver needs to be able to travel at least 200 miles before stopping for any reason, including refueling.
Before a driver leaves your facility your cargo, you need to collect and record important information, which must be kept in an easily accessible place (for example, on a corporate intranet or a shared network drive) in the event the load is stolen en route to the intended destination. Some of that documentation should also be given to the driver with explicit instructions to keep it on his or her person at all times.
The first information that needs to be collected concerns the driver. A photograph of every driver should be taken, as well as a scan of the driver's license. From the license, your staff should record the driver's name, date of birth, address, license number and license expiration date. Gate employees should also record each driver's company name, dispatcher number (if applicable) and personal mobile phone number. Drivers should receive a photocopy of their driver's license and a printout of all other records in the event that they are forced to exit the truck without their wallet.\
Information about the tractor and trailer also needs to be collected. You should photograph the tractor and trailer from the side and rear. Vehicle identification numbers, license plate numbers, year/make/model and a written description must be recorded. Again, a printout of this information should be given to the driver along with instructions in the event of a cargo theft incident.
By arming your carrier and your company with essential information about the driver, tractor and trailer, you significantly increase your chances of recovering cargo if it is stolen. Typically, when a trailer full of cargo is stolen from a truck stop, law enforcement officials need more details than they receive. There are thousands of "white trailers with writing on the side" operating daily on the interstates. Conversely, by immediately providing police with actual license plate numbers and full vehicle descriptions, they know exactly what to look for.
Finally, after a shipment has left the facility, work still needs to be done. You must catalog and store all records and photos about the driver and vehicle. Access to this folder must be quick and convenient in the event of a theft.
Your company also needs to have guidelines about how to react in the event of a cargo theft. If the on-call supply chain person receives a call from a driver at 11:30 p.m., that staffer should know exactly who to contact, how to transmit relevant data and how to initiate the recovery process (if applicable).
You can mitigate cargo theft risk using a few basic preventive measures: carrier selection, driver education, physical security and information recording. With careful planning and diligent management, your shipments will remain secure even during a busy retail season.
About the Author: Salvatore Marino is the director of business development for CargoNet. In this role, he fosters and manages strategic relationships with a focus in the supply chain arena. CargoNet is part of ISO Crime Analytics, a division of ISO that helps insurers and policyholders predict, plan for and respond to property crime.
With CSA on the minds of motor carrier executives and drivers, it is important to pay close attention to an equally important topic – cargo security. Cargo and equipment theft has had a profound impact on our supply chain, so much so that while the economy went downhill for most of us, business was up for cargo thieves! Companies that are not practicing effective security management are risking their current assets and future earnings to the profiteering criminals. Although there is no single solution to the problem, a variety of considerations can help you manage your security risks in the long haul.
The top states for cargo theft are California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, and New Jersey. Targeted products include electronics, food and beverages, clothing, pharmaceuticals and cigarettes. In 2009, an average of 72 cargo theft incidents per month was recorded by FreightWatch International, a security management and consulting firm. That is equivalent to one theft every 10 hours.
The worldwide cargo theft cost approaches a staggering $50 billion. It is the costliest crime in America, with costs exceeding all burglaries, robberies, cyber thefts, and identity thefts combined. Actual costs may be greater when the indirect costs are considered and because some businesses are reluctant to report thefts due to concern about reputation and insurance premiums. The average loss per motor carrier theft ranges from $200,000 - $350,000 (not including theft of vehicle equipment).
How Theft Occurs
A variety of strategies are employed by thieves, but the most common ploy is to seek out unattended trucks or trailers. Unattended trailers can be found at truck stops - where drivers might leave a truck to refuel, eat, or shower - and at truck terminals, warehouses, and manufacturing plants, where trailers might be staged and preloaded for delivery. Equipped with their own power units, the crooks know which carriers haul high value goods and can steal a trailer within one minute. A second strategy is to look for a disgruntled driver at a truck stop and offer to exchange the whole rig for money or fuel, and then the driver falsely reports the rig as stolen.
Finally, a third strategy involves organized gangs conducting surveillance of facilities. They may plant a person as an employee at the targeted company, and this person provides reconnaissance on facility layout and security. Details are provided on the whereabouts of a high-value load so it can be hijacked and stolen later. Fortunately, hijacking is rare, with most crimes involving non-violent truckload thefts during weekend hours. Soon after the trailer is stolen, the company decals are removed, painted over, or changed to conceal the identity so law enforcement has a difficult time locating it. The trailer may be taken somewhere and monitored for several days to ensure it is not being tracked by a hidden tracking device. During this time, they are also watching the trailer against theft by other cargo thieves! When ready, they will take the trailer to their destination for unloading and distribution of stolen contents.
Your Knowledge is Power
One challenge in crime-fighting is that everyone thinks it is the exclusive realm of law enforcement, but nothing could be further from the truth. Whether a crime involves burglary, assault, or vehicle theft, law enforcement relies on information for the investigation. This information can be gathered from evidence left at the scene as well as information gathered by victims and eyewitnesses before, during, and after the crime. Without information, the investigation becomes extremely difficult.
If you are not already concerned about cargo and equipment theft, now is the time because sooner or later you may become a victim, or you may be able to provide useful information about a theft that you can help resolve. Begin arming yourself with information by seeking guidance from a security professional, either from within your organization, from an outside consulting firm, or from your insurance agency or carrier. A professional will be able to provide you with a security evaluation along with recommendations for improvement. Contact your state trucking association to learn what efforts are underway with local law enforcement agencies.
By getting to know the law enforcement officers who are on the front lines against cargo theft, you can stay informed about local trends, subscribe to theft alerts, and maintain a steady stream of knowledge that will help protect your company. Motor carriers can give direct feedback to law enforcement about changing business practices, questionable vehicles and persons observed in the area, and concerns they might have. It is this information-sharing process, achieved by business working together with law enforcement that helps to increase recoveries of stolen cargo and deter future theft.
Identify an association you might like to join – one with both trucking and law enforcement members - and get involved. There are many to choose from, including your state’s cargo theft task force, ATA’s Supply Chain Security and Loss Prevention Council, the American Society for Industrial Security, CargoNet, National Insurance Crime Bureau, National Commercial Vehicle and Cargo Theft Prevention Task Force, and the Technology Asset Protection Association.
Can Technology Solve the Problem?
The three principles of cargo security are 1) Secure the truck, 2) Secure the facility, and 3) The less who know, the better. This being said, a layered approach is what works when implementing a security program, one that includes elements such as written procedures, good hiring practices, employee training, and the use of technology components for your facility and vehicles. Your facility can be fitted with perimeter fencing, lighting, locks, security system, surveillance system, limited access areas, and a protected computer network. Your drivers can make use of air cuff locks, kingpin locks, tamper detection devices, and tracking devices.
However, technology is merely an ingredient, not the ultimate solution, in the battle against theft. Relying on GPS truck tracking or hiding a tracking device inside the cargo does not prevent a theft. Finally, none of these tools are effective if they are not used consistently. The one Friday afternoon that someone decides not to use air cuff and kingpin locks will be the day you lose a $500,000 load – along with the entire rig!
The Bottom Line
Motor carriers have enough to deal with these days aside from CSA and fulfilling demanding business needs in a challenging economy. Cargo thieves do not care if you are a for-hire motor carrier, a private motor carrier, or an owner operator. If you have trucks and cargo, you have a theft risk, because anything worth delivering is worth stealing. Review your security practices and determine what is needed to manage your current assets and future earnings…and beat the crooks at their game!
Michael Nischan, CDS, CCSP
Risk Control Consultant
The McCart Group
By JOSH POLTILOVE | The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA - The mastermind behind the $7.4 million theft of military computers was nabbed thanks to some good police work – and the help of a McDonald's drive-thru, investigators said.
Rolando Coca, 55, of Miami, was arrested recently in South Florida and faces a federal indictment for theft of government property, officials announced today.
The investigation began almost a year ago after two burglars cut a hole in the roof of a military contractor's warehouse in Palm River and rappelled inside.
The warehouse is operated by iGov, a Virginia-based contractor that supplies communication and computer network equipment to U.S. Special Forces.
The alarm systems were "defeated," Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said. Over almost 10 hours, the group of 10 suspects stole about 3,000 pieces of computer equipment, loading it into tractor-trailers.
"This was very choreographed, and it was operated at a very high skill level," Gee said. "Obviously they have done these things before."
But even as the elaborate heist was being carried out March 6, investigators said, a simple burger run was helping pave the way for detectives to crack the case.
A red Lincoln Navigator captured on surveillance video at the crime scene also was spotted on camera at a McDonald's a mile away, Gee said. Coca later was identified as the man at the SUV's wheel in the drive-thru lane.
Investigators seized the Lincoln in April and found a piece of foam insulation, which analysts determined was consistent with material from iGov's roof.
Coca's DNA also was found on a door and window at the warehouse, authorities said.
Because many cargo thefts in Florida appear to have Miami ties, Gee said deputies, federal agents and an informant worked to buy 30 laptops for $15,000 in South Florida.
A second deal, 100 laptops for $50,000, also was organized. Gee said the dealers imposed a restriction: the laptops could not remain in the country.
The computer equipment had been stolen from iGov, investigators said.
Authorities discovered an abandoned warehouse in Opa-locka that housed 1,900 computers – about $4.7 million worth of the stolen equipment.
Some stolen property also was found for sale on Amazon and eBay, although about 1,000 items remain missing.
None of the top secret information at the Gov warehouse was stolen, authorities said.
Investigators said Coca heads a Miami crime family linked to several cargo thefts.
One other person has been arrested in the Gov theft: Emil Benitez, a "middle man" who has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for his involvement, Gee said.
The investigation continues.
The FBI estimates annual cargo theft losses nationwide at $30 billion. Investigators said there were 171 thefts last year in Florida, with an average loss of $471,200.
Hillsborough deputies have investigated 17 cargo thefts or "high dollar warehouse thefts" since 2008, with losses totaling about $15 million.
Ga. Bureau of Investigation starts major theft unit, has seized more than $17M of stolen cargo
BY KYLE MARTIN
The Augusta Chronicle
Nov. 29--Ricky Hamblin was killing time one recent afternoon when he noticed a stranger walking toward the cab of his tractor-trailer.
Hamblin stopped what he was doing and kept his neutral gaze locked on the stranger until the man introduced himself as a newspaper reporter.
Hamblin relaxed a little and explained that it's his habit to always watch his mirrors and keep an eye out for would-be robbers.
"I'm always scanning the area," said Hamblin, who was parked among dozens of other trucks at the Pilot gas station on River Watch Parkway by Interstate 20.
Hamblin is right to be leery, authorities say. Georgia is a major hub for shipping companies, with an estimated 43.5 million truckloads of cargo valued at $1.4 trillion passing through the state in 2009, according to the office of Gov. Sonny Perdue.
That's an attractive lure for thieves, who break the locks on trailers or force drivers to open them at gunpoint. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation created a Major Theft Unit specifically to address this problem and has seized more than $17 million in stolen cargo.
A majority of the thefts happen in the metro Atlanta area, but thieves are striking all across the state, said Special Agent John Cannon, who heads the Major Theft Unit.
In Augusta, sheriff's office reports show thieves steal whatever they find in cargo trucks, from beef broth and boxed wine to toilet paper.
Last year, trucks hauling frozen beef and $8.8 million worth of pharmaceuticals were stolen from Haralson County on the Alabama state line. Those types of incidents make cargo theft a "huge issue" for both truckers and consumers, said Edward Crowell, the president and CEO of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association.
"Everything the consumer buys costs more because of cargo theft," he said.
Crowell added that stolen goods, including medicine and improperly refrigerated food, will find their way back into the market.
Most cargo thefts are not impulse crimes, but organized and planned by specific groups. Some are more loosely organized than others, but most know exactly what they're looking for and already have a buyer set up, Cannon said.
The problem is that many of the goods are sold on the Internet and have already disappeared by the time authorities are aware of a theft, Cannon said.
Another problem is finding the jurisdiction to prosecute the thieves who are caught.
A theft can happen in one county, the goods sold in another county and the thieves arrested in another. A statewide task force has helped address that problem.
But often local jurisdictions report cargo theft as a simple auto theft, making it hard for the GBI to keep reliable statistics on the true scope of cargo theft.
Cannon said proper safeguards, such as heavy-duty locks, would safeguard against thefts. But the trade-off is that a strong lock signals that something important is locked inside.
"It's very difficult to compromise," he said.