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Cargo, Supply Chain Theft a Game of Strategy and Deception

Posted by Sean Murphy on Jun 25, 2021

Strategic and deceptive are two important ways to describe cargo/supply chain theft. Criminals strategize on tactics that they believe will be most successful and determine perfect timing to commit theft. They also conceive ways and carry them out to trick or hoodwink police and other authorities to prevent them from getting caught. These types of behaviors can lead to even bigger crimes.

The FBI has found cargo theft offenses to often be components of organized crime rings, drug trafficking and even funding for terrorism. What may seem like small, petty thefts from parked or in-transit trucks and trailers can quickly add up, causing a significant economic impact and possible damage and destruction.

Fishy Tale of Stolen Guns

Video surveillance cameras caught the tail end of a cargo theft at a Memphis, Tenn. Bass Pro Shop. Footage released by Memphis Police Department (MPD) caught the back end of three vehicles driving away from the store at approximately six in the morning. The suspects reportedly stole 46 firearms from a semi-trailer parked at the store. Although a physical description was unable to be obtained by MPD, the FBI and ATF are assisting in this investigation.

Stolen Military Explosives Found in Pink Pillowcase

If you saw a bright pink pillowcase stashed within some bushes in your backyard, would you be curious enough to look inside? An Atlanta resident was. He found a box with “Cartridges for weapons” stenciled on it that housed 30 armor-piercing grenades.
Scared? Confused? Yes, he was both, according to The Associated Press. These grenades, known by Marines as “40 mike-mike,” feed into an MK 19 launcher. This launcher can shoot almost one mile per second, penetrate three inches of steel and has a kill radius of approximately 50 feet.

Atlanta police were notified. As they awaited the bomb unit’s arrival on scene, the police were busy ensuring five houses in both directions as well as houses across the street from the discovered canister were evacuated.
Investigators concluded that eight months prior to discovery, the grenades were on an ammunition train that left from Florida with Pennsylvania as the destination. Someone had stolen the grenades somewhere in between.

As the journey unfolded, the found box was once cargo aboard one of six flatbed rail cars that hauled 18 storage containers, each with an orange warning sign that read “Explosives.” The train’s route allowed the cargo to pass through Atlanta twice before it arrived at its final destination. It was there that a worker who unpacked the container discovered the missing ammo.
Several security failures occurred along the way:

  • Armed guards accompanied the shipment, but they didn’t report anything out of the ordinary or suspicious.
  • At arrival, anti-theft seals on each container weren’t verified to be intact.
  • The next day, the seals still were not checked because the inspector said that he couldn’t see them.
  • On day three, workers finally noticed a broken seal … a metal strap cut with one box of ammo missing.

The military relies on contractors to safely deliver explosives. Most have required security protocols in place and are followed during transport.
So, what happened to the canister of ammo found in the pink pillowcase in Atlanta? Explosive specialists from the local reserve base blew it up but not before noticing that the canister, which is typically packed with 32 rounds, only had 30. Two rounds remain unaccounted for.

Live Video Surveillance Helps Discourage Theft

Based on data found by the British International Freight Association (BIFA), North America sees cargo/supply chain theft almost exclusively in-transit or directly from parked trucks and trailers as illustrated in the two very recent examples above. In both cargo theft examples, action was taken after the theft had taken place, rending this reactive security.

Reactive video surveillance allows for high-resolution camera feeds to be recorded, stored and viewed later to help identify a sequence of events and those involved in possible unwanted situations. At Bass Pro Shop, video surveillance footage aided authorities in identifying the vehicles involved, but they are left searching for actual gun thieves themselves. With the grenades, several security mishaps along the way lead to the theft and discarding of stolen military ammo.
To increase the chances of seeing an event as it happens, consider video surveillance cameras that rely on analytics and human intelligence. Specific, pre-determined activities are identified by the system and immediately alerts a trained Stealth security operator who responds by following established protocols. This could mean activating an audible warning or a call to police.

When police departments receive a call from Stealth, they know we are watching crimes in progress which means they typically elevate its priority level. In most cases, officers will arrive while the suspects are still on or near the property.
In addition to video surveillance, consider long-range surveillance as well as license plate recognition. These technologies can distinguish information such as license plate numbers and letters, vehicle numbers and a thief’s face.

Our proactive security solution includes video review, system health checks to ensure your equipment is working properly and management reporting. It all creates an integrated security solution to help protect precious cargo.
At Stealth Monitoring, we can help create a cargo theft security solution based on your unique needs. To learn more about Stealth’s cargo theft security and develop an inclusive cargo security plan, please contact us.