According to a new cargo crime trend report, cargo thieves are becoming more organized and are more frequently targeting trucking company facilities for their heists.

Data compiled by LoJack Supply Chain Integrity via its Supply Chain Information Sharing and Analysis Center (SC-ISAC) in the second quarter this year noted that 34 cargo theft incidents occurred at trucking company facilities, including secured drop yards, an increase of more than 300% over the number of thefts at such carrier facilities in the first quarter of 2009. The number two and three locations for theft were at truck stops (24 incidents) and parking lots (21 incidents), LoJack SCI said.

“This theft trend tells us that these loads were under surveillance and had been targeted from their point of origin, implying that these criminal acts were the results of very specific planning at the hands of organized thieves,” said Robert Furtado, LoJack SCI’s CEO. It also shows cargo thieves are becoming bolder as well, as they are seeking out vehicles containing cargo even when secured with fencing and other surveillance systems, targeting very specific loads versus simply pursuing “opportunistic” thefts, he noted.

LoJack SCI’s cargo theft trend bulletin also revealed that vehicles and their cargoes are at rest for a shorter period of time before they are stolen. For example, in the second quarter of 2009, the company identified 19 incidents that occurred in less than four hours time, eight of which had been parked for less than one hour. This is a further indication that thieves are more organized, targeting specific locations and/or loads and not relying on “chance” to secure stolen items, said Furtado.

The company’s cargo theft data is based on a total of 221 incidents LoJack SCI collected and analyzed from the 1,650 users and 650 member companies of its SC-ISAC network.

Federal law enforcement trend data backs up LoJack SCI’s findings. “There are some cargo thefts that are crimes of opportunity, but the vast majority are committed by criminal enterprises,” noted Ron Koziol, assistant section chief-violent crime section of the criminal investigative division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“Sophisticated cargo theft groups plan the operations through surveillance of truck stops and distribution centers. They carry equipment to defeat tractor/trailer security mechanisms, they pre-position empty trailers to off load the stolen cargo trailer, or they may temporarily rent warehouse space to transfer loads between a stolen trailer and a legitimate trailer,” Koziol told FleetOwner.

“Many of the criminal enterprises seen today may be organized based on familial, ethnic, or nationality ties,” he added. “Also, they may employ violent street gang members, have established complex multi-jurisdictional theft, fencing and distribution operations, and are sometimes involved in other types of criminal activities such as drug trafficking, money laundering, violent crimes, and other property crimes like organized retail thefts.”

Industry professionals also report seeing more organization within the ranks of cargo thieves. Walt Fountain, director of enterprise security at TL carrier Schneider National, told FleetOwner that his company is indeed seeing more reports of thieves targeting warehouses and other facilities. In effect, “they are going where the freight is,” he said.

“These are sophisticated [cargo theft] crews working the business, spending weeks, if not months targeting warehouses,” Fountain said. “There’s more profit in that than chasing tractor-trailers down the highway.”

However, he added that thefts from truckstops or other unprotected parking areas still remains the real threat. “Any kind of unprotected area where trucks and trailers may stop is what worries us,” Fountain said. “That’s why we work constantly with our drivers to maintain cargo security discipline, making sure they follow security procedures at all times to lower their risk of theft, while we send them regular updates on developing cargo theft ‘hot spots’ so they are kept in the loop about the bigger cargo crime picture.”

“The fact that thieves are stealing goods increasingly from secured areas is further proof that ‘cargo at rest is cargo at risk,’ even if the cargo is located in an area with some measures of physical security,” added Lojack SCI’s Furtado. “It’s further proof that companies need to take extra precautions to ensure their loads – as well as their trucks and trailers – are fully protected from today’s sophisticated thieves.”