Reported cargo theft produces an annual loss of $35 billion in the United States, the priciest crime on the books. Food, electronics, metals and apparel are the most popular loads stolen, accounting for 54 percent of the total thefts. And the losses continue to rise.
Don Hsieh, director of commercial and industrial marketing for Tyco, reports that "Ninety percent of cargo thefts occur during transit via trucks. The $35 billion number, which comes from the FBI, is a very large number. There are a lot of issues around it." Organized crime rings are often involved.
Last year the National Insurance Crime Bureau logged 1,215 cargo theft incidents across the country, a 17 percent increase over 2010. Those figures don’t include thefts that go unreported by smaller companies that fear they will lose business if word gets out that they have been victimized, California Highway Patrol Officer Xavier Spencer said in a recent NBC News report. Spencer has been involved in California’s crackdown project on cargo theft.
"California, where 40 percent of American retail goods are imported through the L.A. and Long Beach ports, led all states with 304 occurrences of cargo theft in 2011", Hsieh said. That’s more than $390 million in theft in the state in just the last two years alone; Texas was second on the list with 173 instances of cargo theft, followed by Florida with 146, according to the NBC report. Those three states plus New Jersey, Illinois and Georgia accounted for 75 percent of all truck cargo stolen in the United States last year.
So what can be done to protect the 2 million tractor-trailers on the road each year carrying 67 percent of all U.S. freight?
Technology must be preventative, Hsieh said. Often these crimes are committed when truckers leave their rigs idling in a parking lot while they take a short break. "It becomes very easy for a thief to just steal a truck and drive it off," he said.