U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) - Baltimore Service Port has reported a new record in the number of stolen vehicles being exported from the US. CBP said 246 stolen vehicles, worth over $10.3 million, have been recovered at seaports in Baltimore, Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia in 2019.
Baltimore ranks second nationally behind New York, in which 257 stolen vehicles were recovered in 2019.
Nationwide, more than 1,000 vehicles have been recovered during import and export inspections, with a majority of the vehicles recovered on East Coast ports.
CBP said it has been a record year for recoveries in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Wilmington. Recoveries this year are up 112% over last year's figures. At least 66% of the recoveries occurred at the Port of Baltimore.
The agency blamed transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) that operate up and down Interstate-95 for the jump in stolen vehicles.
"Export examinations are a critical component to Customs and Border Protection's border security mission. Transnational criminal organizations use stolen vehicles as currency and they conceal illicit revenue from their illegal activities in outbound cargo," said Casey Durst, Director of Field Operations for CBP's Baltimore Field Office. "CBP officers remain committed to striking back at criminal groups where it hurts most, by intercepting their illegal exports and illicit financial gains."
CBP said at least 95% of the stolen vehicles recovered at East Coast ports were destined to West African nations, including Benin, The Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
CBP provides details of some of the vehicles recovered:
- 80% (198 vehicles) were from model years 2015 through 2019.
- 63% (156 vehicles) were sport utility vehicles. Nationally, SUV's comprised 45% of CBP's recovered stolen vehicles during 2019.
- The top-5 recovered stolen vehicles were the Land Rover Range Rover (28), Toyota Camry (15), Toyota Rav4 (12), Toyota 4Runner (9), and Cadillac Escalade (7).
- The most expensive recovered stolen vehicle was a 2017 Audi R8, valued at $162,900, was destined to Togo.
- The newest vehicle was a 2020 Mercedes Benz GLE350, destined to West Africa.
- The oldest vehicle was a 1988 Mack truck, destined to West Africa. The oldest passenger vehicle was a 2002 Toyota Camry, destined to Nigeria.
The agency warned that the number of recovered stolen vehicles have surged in the last several years, officials said the trend would likely persist into the new year.