Food and Beverage Theft: Thieves Targeting Tasty Freight

Posted by Mark Artis on March 4, 2022

From small-time pilfering – grabbing handfuls of boxes from trucks where truckers have stopped for a break from delivering goods – to organized crime rings who glean insider information and target warehouses where high-value products are stored, the United States’ logistics and transportation industry has the makings of the next great American crime novel.

So, what exactly are these pilferers and sophisticated criminals stealing? Whatever they can sell. Currently, the focus is on food and beverage.

The Data Says It Best

BSI Supply Chain Services and Solutions and TT Club, a leading international transport and logistics insurer, produces the Cargo Theft Report. This report brings together threat and intelligence data from BSI and risk management and loss prevention insights from TT Club. Found in the 2021 report:

Focusing on North America:

  • The top stolen commodities are food and beverage at 33%.
  • The top theft types are theft from facilities and in-transit.

On a global scale:

  • The top stolen commodities are food and beverage at 31%.
  • The second highest theft types are theft from facilities, coming in second to hijacking.

Two concepts can be concluded from this data:

1. Idle freight is freight at risk.

Thieves are taking their chances, cashing in on a recent and growing snag in our economy. Container backlogs at U.S. ports are causing a stressed supply chain and setting up opportunities for thieves to successfully do what they do best – steal.

At ports, shipments are sitting idle. While in route, truckers need a break and therefore, products sit idle. For products that make it to warehouses and distribution centers, they too sit idle inside these facilities until delivery is made to their final destinations. Therefore, idleness is creating opportunity for theft.

2. Food “to-go” takes on a whole new meaning.

In our culture, grabbing breakfast, lunch or dinner to-go from restaurants’ drive through windows is common. It’s quick, easy and convenient.

This “to-go” phenomenon of quick, easy and convenient is also holding true for thieves who target warehouses full of food and beverage products. Stealing from warehouses can be quick and easy, especially if they do not have effective security measures deployed. Plus, it’s convenient because all the food and beverage products are encased in a single location. Warehouses are basically a one-stop-shop for thieves.

In the News …

Incidents of food and beverage theft in the recent news support this data that food and beverage is highly sought after by criminals.

Awww … Nuts! Just last summer, a 34-year-old man was arrested for allegedly stealing 42,000 pounds of pistachios from a Californian grower, Touchstone Pistachio Company. Employees conducting a routine warehouse audit realized that the numbers weren’t adding up. How could enough nuts to fill a tractor-trailer go missing?

Come to find out, nut heists are more common than one might think, according to the local sheriff’s agricultural crimes unit’s sergeant. This is because nuts are almost untraceable. Without a bar code or associated product number, it’s impossible to identify the origins of the nut. Of course, not only are pistachios too small to have identifying numbers printed directly onto the shell, but it would take time and money to do so. Not to mention, the un-shelled variety.

Well Butter Me Up! This past Christmas day, December 25, 2021, around 11 p.m., four suspects broke into a Canadian butter warehouse. Apparently two trucks and trailers were taken, each with 20,000 kilograms of butter inside.

Police found the trailers about a two-hour drive away from the warehouse, but the $200,000 worth of butter … gone.

Say Cheese! The UK’s Centre for Retail Research recently surveyed 1,187 retailers representing 250,000 retail outlets from 43 countries. The data showed that cheese is the most stolen item in the world. In fact, 4% of the total cheese made globally is comprised of large-scale black-market operations where the cheese is re-sold to shops, restaurants and other food service industries.

Notable incidents of cheese theft over the past few years include:

Well, Wine Not! Last Spring, thieves broke into a Berry Bros. and Rudd’s warehouse – the champagne supplier to the Royal Family – and stole $2.3 million bottles worth of the bubbly. Thieves crawled under laser beams and up ladders to turn off CCTV cameras. Creating a human chain, they passed along wooden cases of champagne, out of the warehouse and into a waiting van.

Overall, food and beverage products are considered easy to steal and resell for quick money, and difficult to track when stolen. Bar codes, serial numbers or other identifying marks can be easily eliminated by simply removing packaging. Thieves know this and target warehouses where high-value products, like food and beverages, are stored.

The Time is Now for Remote Video Surveillance

A Goldman Sachs economist predicts that backlogs are likely to persist until at least the middle of this year. It’s impossible to force the movement of freight with the current backlog, lack of delivery drivers, elevated shipping costs and prices soaring for consumers. However, highly sought-after freight, especially food and beverage products, that makes its way out of backlogged ports and into warehouses and distribution facilities can be protected from aggressive criminals.

It all boils down to this: there is a black market for everything. With food and beverage being the hottest prize for criminals these days, business owners and managers need to equip their warehouses, distribution facilities and other buildings and perimeters with proactive security that helps deter theft before it happens.

Stealth’s remote video monitoring security solution is customizable for warehouse environments. Our solution is a combination of advanced video analytics, high-definition video cameras from vetted manufacturers and human intelligence.

The first line of human intelligence is our team of logistic security specialists. They take the specific layout of your warehouse and strategically place cameras, pre-programmed with advanced analytics, around your facility. Our specialists ensure they are installed and aimed in the correct direction to capture all activity in and around your facility in real time. The technology filters through video streams 24/7 and detects certain activities without the need for human help. When the technology identifies a suspicious activity that needs human interaction to analyze and determine next steps, it alerts a highly qualified, trained Stealth Monitoring security operator who takes over.

Our operators are the second line of human intelligence. Working with our technology, our operators can see your site and any activity taking place in real time. After assessing, they can take immediate action based on a pre-determined protocol of established procedures that come up on their screen when they are alerted.

Our operators can activate on-site, audible speaker warnings. In some cases, this is enough to send thieves running from your warehouse because they know they are being watched. On-call managers or other employees can be contacted when specific events take place. More drastic measures can also be taken by calling local police dispatch to report an in-progress event at your warehouse.

Stealth has developed professional relationships with police departments across North America. When one of our operators contact these department’s dispatch, they know something suspicious is happening because it is video verified and usually, officers arrive on property while the incident is still in progress. Therefore, the suspicious incident is deterred, and arrests are made if officers deem it necessary.

To discuss more about Stealth’s warehouse security solution that is up to 60% less than the cost of traditional guards and other security solutions – contact our team of specialists today.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, News, Video Monitoring