Cargo thefts in the United States and Canada declined in the third quarter, with total incidents falling 8% and total loss value dropping nearly 17% compared with the same period a year ago, according to CargoNet.
There were 197 reported cargo thefts with a loss value of $21.4 million in the quarter ending Sept. 30, a drop from 214 thefts with a value of $25.7 million in the same period a year ago, the creator and manager of the national database and information sharing system of cargo crime found.
Thefts in the third quarter fell even more from the same period in 2015, when 223 thefts valued at $32 million were reported. The freight industry has seen a 12% decline in thefts and an 11% drop in their value from third quarter 2015 to 2017.
The decline is occurring for several reasons, said Scott Cornell, transportation business lead and crime and theft specialist at Travelers.
In part it’s because police and businesses have joined to fight the problem. “We’re seeing law enforcement and the private sector working together,” he said.
Secondly, “there have been significant arrests in California, Georgia and Illinois since 2016. We’re seeing an impact from that work,” said Cornell, noting those states have active cargo theft task forces.
Technology has helped to foil the thieves as well, according to a CargoNet analysis.
“Our intelligence analysts love when technology solutions such as driver facing cameras or dash cameras, tracking devices, trailer door sensors and high-security trailer locks are involved in a reported theft. It greatly increases the chance of a successful recovery or arrest,” CargoNet reports.
Unfortunately, crooks around the globe soon adopt technology to work around the newest barriers to theft, Cornell said. For example, thieves in Brazil have been using “sniffers” to find sensors hidden in cargo and “jammers” to jam their signal.
Cornell cautioned that the cargo theft numbers are valuable but they cover only reported thefts. There is no mandated national program for police to use when filing these reports so local incidents may be categorized simply as thefts.
When classified by product, the most commonly stolen commodity was food and beverages, accounting for 21% of incidents, with an average loss value of $57,043.
Electronics had the highest loss value per theft, averaging $325,388 per theft.
Texas led all states in cargo thefts in the quarter with 46, a 64% rise from a year ago. About 36% of the thefts were of building materials, way up from the 14% of similar thefts a year ago. CargoNet suggests that Hurricane Harvey slamming Texas in August was the cause of the increase.
There were 17 cargo thefts of building materials in the third quarter, but a year ago there were four thefts recorded in the same quarter. “We can’t confirm this is due to recent natural disasters, but we believe it’s a sound theory that increased demand for these goods would make them more desirable to steal,” according to a CargoNet analysis.
Cornell concurs. “Thieves are good capitalists. They steal what people will buy.”
The rise in building material theft in Texas impacted national numbers, causing it to jump to 12% of all commodity thefts in the third quarter from 7% a year ago. The loss per theft of building materials had an average cost of $24,357.
California reduced its thefts to 34 from 61 a year ago, a 44% drop, while New Jersey saw a 71% jump to 24 thefts this year from 14.
The last two of the top five states in thefts were Illinois with 18 and Florida with 17.
California suffered several high-value cargo thefts, with one of gaming consoles valued at $1.8 million, while three others that involved clothing had a combined loss of more than $2.5 million.
Parking lots accounted for 19% of theft locations in the third quarter, making it the top spot for thievery, while secured yards accounted for 17% and warehouses for 16%. Thefts from truck stops accounted for 14% of thefts, the highest percent ever for thefts from this location, according to CargoNet. These incidents were most common in Houston.
Nationally the most common mode of theft involved the tractor, trailer and cargo together, affecting 42% of all thefts, while nearly 29% were classified as cargo only that includes warehouse burglaries, fictitious pickups and pilferages.
CargoNet is a subsidiary of Jersey City, N.J.-based Verisk Analytics. It has tracked and analyzed every reported American and Canadian cargo theft since January 2010 and reports them quarterly. It breaks down the data by stolen commodity type, theft incident location and date, cargo origin/destination, loss value and other categories.