By Noi Mahoney of FreightWaves
California, Texas and Florida were the most targeted states for cargo theft during the fourth quarter of 2021, with electronics, home appliances and pharmaceuticals the main focus of thieves. CargoNet, a Verisk business, which tracks supply chain thefts, reported a total of 300 thefts in the fourth quarter, compared to 407 in the same period in 2020, a 26% year-over-year decline.
“We’re down from last year, which tells me supply chains are starting to normalize,” Keith Lewis, CargoNet’s vice president of operations, told FreightWaves.
Lewis said one of the reasons cargo theft might be down in the fourth quarter is that brokerages aren’t being bombarded with the unprecedented volume of goods consumers were buying in 2020.
Instead of being under the gun to get 50 loads moved on a certain day, brokers are now getting 25 loads to move, Lewis said.
“The supply chains are kind of chugging along now, not moving at the lightspeed that it was [in 2020],” Lewis said. “On the brokerage side, when you’re moving at lightspeed, vetting carriers and things like that, take a back seat because we have got to get the load moving.”
California topped the list of states with the most reported cargo thefts in the fourth quarter with 63, followed by Texas with 34 and Florida at 30.
Electronics were the most stolen commodities during the fourth quarter and for all of 2021. The top locations for theft during the fourth quarter were parking lots and truck stops.
“Pilferage is up — we saw people leaving trucks in the shopping mall parking lot over the weekend or the big-box store over the weekend, or the parking lot across from a distribution center,” Lewis said. “Truck stops was No. 2, which tells me that we have a lot of pilferage at truck stops with people stealing off the trailer, not stealing the whole trailer.”
While the numbers may be down, there is still a lot of freight at risk, said Ron Greene, vice president of business development at Overhaul, a real-time visibility and risk management platform based in Austin, Texas.
“Cargo theft in Southern California continues to be an ongoing issue,” Greene said.
In December, Union Pacific reported a 160% spike in robberies on the railroad’s property in Los Angeles. The thefts involved trespassers climbing onto trains and breaking into cargo containers.
In three months in the fall during intermodal peak season, UP said over 90 containers were compromised per day on average and over 100 arrests were made by local law enforcement and UP.
“What really has caused the rail services to see a spike in thefts are primarily the supply chain issues causing backlogs, causing freight and containers to sit idle and unsecured for longer periods of time making them more vulnerable,” Greene said.
In 2021, Overhaul helped one of its customers recover $1 million worth of electronics stolen in Tennessee. Overhaul also recovered $400,000 for a consumer electronics company in December.
“For the electronics company, we recorded a door opening event on a container, meaning that we have technology to monitor when the doors are open, or when the doors are closed in real time,” Greene said. “We were able to get law enforcement out to that specific container within a few minutes.”