High-value cargo theft on the rise

June 5, 2024

Ryan Witkowski

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If the continued rise in cargo theft wasn’t enough to put carriers on high alert, one industry insider is noting a significant increase in thieves targeting high-value loads.

According to 2024 first-quarter data from Overhaul – an Austin, Texas-based supply chain risk management company – there were 11 recorded theft incidents in which the estimated total loss exceeded $1 million. In comparison, the company recorded just one cargo theft that surpassed that value in the first quarter of 2023.

“On the surface, targeting high-value goods might seem like an unwise undertaking for criminals. It involves high levels of planning and coordination and can come with big consequences should a thief be caught,” the company said. “However, these obstacles do little to deter criminals for the simple, unfortunate reason that criminals have much to gain. The higher the value, the higher the potential rewards.”

In total, Overhaul recorded 371 thefts in the first quarter of 2024, just over four thefts per day, marking a 38% increase from the first quarter of 2023. The combined value of the 11 events that exceeded $1 million accounted for 49% of the total loss value in the first three months of this year.

As far as what types of loads are being targeted, the company said that electronics remained at the top of the list, including a number of incidents where thieves stole computers, monitors, cryptocurrency mining machines and telecommunications equipment.

The company also noted a recent rise in the theft of pharmaceuticals, which it said can “easily be sold on the black market for a sizable profit.”

Overhaul added that in addition to targeting high-value commodities for cargo theft, thieves have become wise to the fact that shippers often transport multiple high-value goods at once.

“This means the potential rewards are even greater via the theft of a single tractor-trailer,” the company said. “In other words, rather than risk stealing several less valuable loads, they’ll often choose to go after a single, more valuable one.”

The company added that “many shippers lack the cargo security features to help deter attacks,” which it said is exacerbating the issue.

“In these cases, they might assume that others will be targeted instead of them or that cargo theft is not as bad as it’s made out to be,” Overhaul said. “Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. In fact, statistics show that the situation for high-value loads may be getting even worse.”

When it comes to cargo theft, it isn’t just the dollar value that’s rising – it’s also the total number of incidents.

First-quarter data from CargoNet – a Jersey City, N.J.-based data- and information-sharing company working with law enforcement and motor carriers to combat cargo theft – led the company to declare that theft incidents had reached “new heights.”

“CargoNet documented a staggering 925 incidents, marking a substantial 46% increase compared to the first quarter of 2023 and a concerning 10% rise from the fourth quarter of 2023,” the company said.

It added that some of the uptick in incidents can be attributed to “complex fraud schemes.”

Keith Lewis, CargoNet’s vice president of operations, said during a recent interview with Land Line Now that incidents of strategic theft through fraud and other “deceptive acts” had increased 700% in some areas of the country. LL