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Is the supply chain safe? Check out latest trends in cargo theft

By Ralph Pepe February 16, 2018

CargoNet releases cargo theft trends report

Cargo theft is a major problem in the supply chain industry, costing businesses millions of dollars in stolen goods annually. In 2017, there were 741 cargo theft events in the United States and Canada, down from 891 the prior year.

Despite the decline, businesses transporting goods remain at risk as thieves steal tractors, trailers, and containers full of cargo from warehouses, truck stops, parking lots, and even secured yards. Understanding theft trends can help companies mitigate risk by pinpointing vulnerabilities, mapping theft patterns, and forecasting challenges in delivery logistics.

Trend 1: Specialized units lead to better investigations

States such as California and New Jersey are notorious hotbeds for cargo theft because they’re home to some of the busiest ports in the nation. Yet, they also had the most significant declines in theft last year. The reason? Successful law enforcement investigations.

California has one of the highest concentrations of specialized antitheft units in the country, which helped yield a 32 percent drop in cargo theft last year. The New Jersey State Police also has specialized theft units, which contributed to the state’s 13 percent decline in cargo theft. Overall, states traditionally with the most cargo thefts saw decreases.

Trend 2: Food industry bears brunt of losses

Food and beverages were the most common items stolen, accounting for 22 percent of all thefts. Items such as meat products and alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages were stolen the most, which could be attributed to frequent deliveries to places such as grocery stores and restaurants that restock items daily.

There was an increase of household items stolen, such as appliances and tools, which accounted for 17 percent of all cargo theft. Electronics were the next most targeted item, accounting for 13 percent of thefts.

Trend 3: Thieves drawn to weekend heists

While some businesses take weekends off, cargo thieves certainly don’t. Friday through Sunday had high rates of cargo theft, with more than half of all incidents occurring on those days.

One reason for this trend is lax security measures. Cargo was left unattended for multiple days in 37 percent of those cases, and there was no electronic tracking, witnesses, or surveillance. While such measures may not prevent theft, they can assist in investigations and recovery.

Trend 4: Theft occurs at the source

The rise of e-commerce means more warehouses are full of items waiting to be shipped, and these sites are often soft targets for criminals. Warehouses remain the top target for thieves, and fenced yard locations were also hit frequently, accounting for 18 percent of all cargo thefts.

Understanding when, where, and how criminals strike can help businesses measure security risk in their supply chain. CargoNet® aggregates and analyzes data on every reported cargo theft incident, which companies can use to prevent incidents and increase recovery rates. Through integrated databases, theft alert systems, and loss control services, CargoNet is helping businesses tackle cargo theft effectively.


Ralph Pepe is a senior intelligence analyst at CargoNet. You can reach him at RPepe@cargonet.com.