ATLANTA — Part of the reason you’re paying as much as 20-percent more for products at the store may be found on Georgia’s highways.
GBI Director Vernon Keenan calls cargo thefts “an epidemic” in the state. Georgia ranks in the top five nationally for numbers of stolen tractor trailers. “The loss of that merchandise is passed on to the consumers at some point,” the Director said. The state doesn’t like its reputation and is trying to change it.
On July 10th, a truckload of pharmaceuticals valued at nearly $9-million was stolen from a Pilot truck stop in Temple, Georgia. In May, a tractor trailer rig was stolen at the same truck stop.
The Pilot truck stop was the scene of another cargo theft in May of 2007. Thieves stole a truckload of Fosomax, a pharmaceutical used by osteoporosis patients. It was valued at $6 million dollars.
Then in June of 2007, the FBI and Cobb County Police raided a warehouse in Mableton that was full of goods that were taken in cargo thefts around the state. Most of the merchandise in the warehouse was from large drug stores and department stores.
“The problem is extensive and it’s growing,” said Director Keenan. “It reached the point that it became an epidemic in Georgia.”
One of the reasons Georgia is ranked in the top five nationally for cargo thefts is because Atlanta is the transportation hub for the southeast. Last year, $1.4-trillion dollars worth of goods travelled on Georgia highways. “Much of the cargo that is travelling on Georgia highways is expensive merchandise,” the Director said.
The bad guys know it and the state is trying to do something about it. In January, Governor Perdue asked the GBI to form a special investigative unit to work cargo thefts. It’s called the Major Theft Unit.
Since then, the unit has recovered 6-million dollars in stolen goods. They’ve recovered truckloads of cigarettes, peaches, cereal, sewing machines, even cars that were being shipped by truck. The unit has also made 20-arrests.
Director Keenan says Georgia’s reputation is at stake. “The fact that the state would have a reputation that it is unsafe to have cargo pass through its boundaries,” he said. Keenan also said some trucking companies have told their drivers not to stop in Georgia. That’s a reputation the state can not afford.
The FBI estimates cargo thefts cost the U.S. $15 to $30-billion dollars a year. They say that estimate is conservative because some businesses are reluctant to report cargo thefts because they are concerned about their reputation and their insurance premiums.