Study Reveals The Patterns of Cargo Theft

By Matthew Harwood

Unlike the average working stiff, shippers don't have cause to celebrate weekends and holidays, according to a five-year study of cargo thefts in the United States.

In a special report released this week (.pdf), FreightWatch has crunched five-years worth of cargo theft data to identify the trends and patterns revealed by cargo thieves robbing tractor-trailers and warehouses.

The company's analysis reveals that cargo thieves tend to prey on shippers over the weekend and during holidays when there is less activity around tractor-trailers and warehouses.

"Sunday and Monday experience higher theft volumes," the report notes, "primarily because those are the days when drivers returning from weekend breaks most often discover their cargo is missing."

Cargo thieves also like to ply their trade during the Thanksgiving holiday more than any other four-day holiday stretch. Freight Watch found that over five years, an average of nearly 12 theft incidents occurred as the industry gave thanks.

Aside from worrying about weekends and holidays, shippers also need heightened awareness as October rolls around.

"The statistics also confirm [the fourth quarter], led by October, as a period of increased cargo theft activity ahead of the looming holiday season--as theft gangs and their brokers need time to steal the desired product and fence it before Christmas," the study reports.

The overall numbers are not comforting either, according to the logistics security solution provider.

Since the company began tracking cargo thefts in 2006, crimes have increased by 190 percent, although they plateaued a bit in 2010. Last year, the rate of growth in cargo thefts slowed to 4.1 percent.

Dan Burges, CPP, senior director of intelligence for FreightWatch, says the report "allows us to see trends developing that might otherwise be missed, which can lead to predictive analysis in making security and business decisions for supply chain operations."

For instance, cargo theft occurs in some regions and states more often than others. The Northeast ranks as the riskiest part of the country for cargo thefts, although the South has two of "The Big Three" states for cargo theft, Florida and Texas. California, particularly Los Angeles, ranks as the riskiest place to ship cargo, although New Jersey now worries FreightWatch. Last year the Garden State rocketed into the top five states for cargo theft as incidents grew by 147 percent.

But the data also shows that shippers have learned from past incidents and have implemented better security policies and programs. In 2006, cargo thieves were able to make off with more than a $1 million in goods 6.5 percent of the time. But as cargo theft incidents have exploded over the past five years, shippers were able to decrease that percentage to 3.1 percent in 2010.


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