Report shows cargo theft incidents continue to climb

May 14, 2024

Ryan Witkowski

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According to one industry insider, cargo theft activity reached “new heights” in the first quarter of 2024.

On Friday, May 10, CargoNet – a Jersey City, N.J.-based data- and information-sharing company working with law enforcement and motor carriers to combat cargo theft – released the results from its 2024 First Quarter Supply Chain Risk Trends Analysis.

“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 in a statement.
Data from CargoNet shows the average value of stolen shipments in the first quarter of 2024 was $281,757, with an estimated total loss of $154.6 million during the first three months of the year.

The company said the continued rise in cargo theft can be attributed in part to “complex fraud schemes,” which result in entire loads being “picked up and never delivered or delivered with digitally altered paperwork to hide the theft from the customer.”

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

“We’re seeing a couple of different groups; they’ve been around for a few years now, but they’ve really perfected the art of fraud and diversion, and that’s led to the increase,” Lewis said.

The overall increase in strategic cargo theft has been significant enough to wind up on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s radar.

In April, the Office of Private Sector and the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office alerted transportation industry stakeholders to a fraud scheme that sought to “trick shippers, brokers or carriers into transferring loads to criminal actors for financial gain.”

According to data from the OPS, there were nearly 500 fraud and fictitious pick-up incidents recorded between November 2022 and July 2023, a year-over-year increase of 503%.

Cargo theft by location

The company said that reported cargo theft events had increased in “most states” but that three states in particular accounted for 61% of all reported thefts in the first quarter of 2024. Those states were:

  • California (72% year-over-year increase)
  • Illinois (126% year-over-year increase)
  • Texas (22% year-over-year increase)

In its report, the company said that small appliances, liquor, energy drinks and copper were heavily targeted commodities during the first quarter.

“Thieves demonstrated a propensity to steal a wide array of goods, posing a significant threat to industries nationwide,” CargoNet said.

While strategic theft incidents helped to fuel the overall rise, the company said that “simple cargo theft,” including whole-trailer thefts and pilferages, continued to be a “persistent issue.” CargoNet added that during the first quarter of the year, notable hotspots for simple cargo theft were:

  • Southern California
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Atlanta
  • The corridor spanning New York, North Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania

“Looking ahead to the second quarter and beyond, CargoNet anticipates that high levels of non-delivery thefts and strategic shortages will persist,” the company said. “The threat landscape remains dynamic, necessitating continuous vigilance and proactive security measures from stakeholders across the supply chain.” LL

Listen to the full interview with CargoNet’s Keith Lewis below.