This Is Why Changes in Cargo Theft Are a Big Problem

Posted by Sean Murphy on March 10, 2022

Cargo theft continues to plague many businesses especially storage facilities, ports, warehouses, distribution centers, and trains. The problem is so bad that the California governor has a proposal to grant almost $300 million dollars to law enforcement and to create a unit that focuses on retail, auto, and train theft.

Union Pacific tells The Los Angeles Times that cargo theft from trains has soared more than 300% compared to the previous year. While supply chain issues are partially responsible, Union Pacific says the justice system's handling of low-level offenders has largely contributed to the problem. Charges are often reduced to a petty offense or misdemeanor. The criminal pays a fine and is released.

Anyone who is concerned about risk management in the supply chain needs to know about these changing patterns of cargo theft.

What's Changed in Cargo Theft?

Trains aren't the only ones dealing with a surge of cargo thefts. Storage facilities have been targeted in 45% of the reported cases in the third quarter of cargo theft data shared by TT Club. This is a 20% increase over the same period the prior year. The data shows theft from facilities led in the types of theft comprising 25% of all thefts while trailer and container make up 20% out of all theft types.

The message is clear. Cargo theft is trending away from "on the move" thefts to locations where cargo is stored and delivered. This affects parked trailers, warehouses, and depots. What's responsible for the change? The supply chain has changed cargo theft patterns.

"There is little doubt that the problems of supply chain disruption that are currently bedeviling the US freight transport system, particularly that of container congestion at ports and inland hubs, is creating increased opportunities for thieves," says Mike Yarwood, TT Club Managing Director, Loss Prevention. "The static nature of cargo in these circumstances, often stored in temporary and less secure facilities, leads to criminal ingenuity adapting the modus operandi of theft in a typically resourceful way."

To prevent and minimize losses and insurance claims, companies will need to revise their security processes and technologies. Yarwood recommends companies do their due diligence, review their management processes, and continue vetting and training employees.

The Need to Raise Awareness on Supply Chain Cargo Theft

The good news is that being aware and informed makes it possible to fight back. A Loss Prevention Magazine story tells how cargo theft dropped by 74% year-over-year in the Northeast. According to the article, analysts say "enforcement action against an interstate trailer burglary group that frequented truck stops on the I-81 corridor in Pennsylvania. That a single enforcement action moved the needle on quarterly statistics suggests that the power exists to curb cargo theft—when the will, resources, and communication channels align."

This is why the supply chain has gained the spotlight in conversations around cargo theft. It's important to acknowledge the supply chain has led to driver shortages, port bottlenecks, and packed warehouses. The first step is to raise awareness of the supply chain issues. Then, the next step is to build awareness of supply chain theft. Awareness often follows with getting more resources.

What's incredible is that local news stations sent aerial vehicles and captured video footage of thieves as they're committing the crime. People were shocked by what they saw in the video. They had no idea cargo theft was such a severe problem. This compelled the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to start working on solving the problem.

Sgt. Jose Covarrubia of the LAPD has worked on cargo theft for nine years. He explains that this is not new. What has changed is the scale. Apparently, the number of police officers monitoring the rail lines had been cut. Additionally, it has grown more dangerous as there have been three murders related to cargo theft in Los Angeles.

A sergeant from the cargo theft task force in the Memphis, Tennessee police department says cargo theft is also a public safety issue. Property crime is fueling violent crime. In committing property crimes, crooks are getting the money they need to buy guns and drugs.

Part of the problem is that these aren't random individuals stealing. It's highly organized crime gangs committing these crimes on a large scale. Law enforcement is currently working on grants to get more officers assigned to cargo security.

A senior transportation analyst says the threats can be managed when you have all sides involved in fixing the problem. Cargo theft can be mitigated with security and police measures. Another factor for controlling cargo theft is strong partnerships.

Anytime a commodity is in short supply, it becomes a target for theft. Cargo thieves go after things they can sell, which is what people want. So, consumer demand plays a role in cargo theft.

How Companies Can Fight Cargo Theft

As always, education coupled with strong processes and procedures can help deter and reduce cargo theft. While "on the move" cargo theft has fallen, you want to ensure it doesn't climb back up.

Create a Truck Driver Education and Verification Process

Educating drivers and creating a truck verification process will help minimize "on the move" theft. Drivers need to know they must keep doors locked and use security seals. Even when they'll only be gone a minute to pay for gas or buy food. Keeping doors locked puts up barriers to slow down or deter theft. Make sure you're using effective hard-locking devices. While thieves look for GPS, there are covert tracking technologies that can be harder to detect.

Train drivers to avoid stopping anywhere within 200 to 250 miles of where the pickup originated. This is known as the red zone. Require drivers to be prepared for driving at least 250 miles before stopping. They should verify they have enough snacks, fuel, and drinks to last until they get outside the red zone.

Determined organized crime gangs will follow trucks and watch for an opportunity to take the cargo. Again, these types of "on the move" scenarios often happen within the red zone.

As for the verification process, the purpose is to check truck and company information. Require truck companies to share specific information before picking up the load. This includes the driver's and carrier's names, truck numbers, and insurance information. Do not release the shipment if a truck arrives in fewer than 24 hours or without notice.

Confirm identities and company information with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) and the Internet. Here's where forging strong partnerships can be of value. Communicating with your partners, vendors, and customers regularly can make a difference.

Upon the truck's arrival, take photos of the truck, driver, and bill of lading. All of this should be in the process as well as obtaining the driver's fingerprints. If the driver refuses, explain that this is your standard process, and you will not make exceptions.

Add an Access Control System

You can automate this check-in and verification process with a gate and access control system that integrates video surveillance technology. This allows you to track the truck's movement at all times. Access control also manages who can enter the perimeter, building, and limited-access rooms.

Access control is more effective when you combine it with remote video surveillance. You can use security cameras to verify the driver's credentials, capture the driver's face, document the license plates and vehicle number, and note the timestamp for reports and later retrieval of footage.

Implement Remote Video Surveillance

Video surveillance monitors everyone who enters and leaves the property. A trained monitoring operator observes the cameras positioned at the entry point. When a truck enters, the operator asks for information from the driver to confirm all the boxes are checked off. The camera also scans the truck for identification information.

This process works for Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) inspections. The only thing anyone will need to inspect is the trailer and check the seals. Everything else can be done with video. Watch this gate and access control video to learn how the system works.

Video surveillance systems help ensure you have eyes over the entire perimeter at all times. Unlike traditional security and alarm systems, video surveillance takes a proactive approach to security and can help deter crime. Security specialists can install cameras in strategic places around the perimeter to watch over the trucks, parking, loading docks, the building's interior, and the gate.

Video surveillance that contains high-resolution cameras can store all the footage for later retrieval and sharing with law enforcement and anyone else who needs to see proof. If a company discovers theft hours or days after it happened, they can have analysts review the videos to piece together what happened and help identify the criminal.

Remote video surveillance does more than stop crime. For example, someone driving a company's fleet truck hit a car during daytime hours. Onsite, no one saw the incident. However, someone did catch it and they were not even on the property.

The monitoring operator working from a remote location caught the accident on the security cameras. The operator zoomed in on the truck to document the license plate, fleet number, and driver's face.

The most powerful and effective video surveillance system integrates high-quality security cameras with video analytics and human monitoring operators. The partnership between analytics and monitoring operators can help increase the chances of their catching something suspicious before anything happens.

The right remote video surveillance system delivers a quick return on your security investment. Video surveillance helps maximize security for warehouses, storage facilities, and trucks while reducing liability. The fragile supply chain, the growing number of cargo theft, and rising costs of materials more than justify the need for security to help protect your cargo and your employees.

To learn more about video surveillance, check out the guide to Remote Video Surveillance: More Than Just Catching Criminals. For a customized security plan that fits your requirements and maximizes your ROI, contact us.

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