North American cargo thefts drop, but electronics a hot spot

Figures suggest there has been a drop in the number of cargo thefts in the US and Canada for the first quarter of 2018, but there has been a spike in electronics cases.

According to CargoNet, there were 159 cargo theft reports across the two countries, with the average value per theft at $90,883 – down from $164,185 in 2017’s first quarter. The firm described this as a “marked decrease”.

A similar pattern was seen in data from SensiGuard, which recorded 115 US cargo thefts in the quarter, a 22 per cent reduction in volume, with the average value per theft dropping to $117,283, down 15 per cent on the same period of 2017. It added that there were no reports of thefts valued at $1m or above in the first three months of the year. 

Food and beverages remained the most stolen commodity category, according to CargoNet’s data, although thefts of this commodity decreased 39% year-on-year, the firm said. Within that category, non-alcoholic beverages were the most stolen item. The next most popular commodities to be stolen were household items – flat compared to the prior year – followed by electronics which rose 64 per cent.

SensiGuard’s US-focused take is a bit different, with electronics the most common item stolen in the first quarter - accounting for almost a quarter (24 per cent) of all cargo thefts – followed by food and drink which made up 19 per cent of the total.

Home and garden items were ranked in third place, accounting for 15 per cent, while automotive and clothing/shoes both accounted for 7  per cent and pharmaceuticals and tobacco made up 2 per cent apiece.    

CargoNet acknowledged recent law enforcement actions in the US as the reason behind the first-quarter decrease in cargo theft numbers, with most states recording decreases in thefts. It singled out the state of New Jersey in particular where cargo theft reports dropped 60 per cent compared, as well as Texas which saw a decline from 22 to 14 in the quarter.

CargoNet also paid tribute to Canada’s Province of Ontario where thefts dropped from 29 to 9 for the first quarters of 2017 and 2018 respectively.     

Meanwhile, SensiGuard data showed that California, with just under 45 thefts, still continued to top the ranks for the US states with the most cargo thefts, although this was still down on the more than 50 thefts reported in the first quarter of 2017.

It said the state with the next highest number of thefts was Illinois, followed by Florida. Texas, which had been ranked as the second top state for cargo thefts in first quarter 2017, moved into fourth position. 

The companies reported that most thefts – 92 per cent – occurred at unsecured parking areas, while just 4 per cent of thefts were from secured parking and warehouse/distribution centres. 

Focus on electronics

SensiGuard’s quarterly report drills into the data for electronics thefts, noting that the spike in cases indicates that “while overall theft volumes and average values may be decreasing, statistics and trends within the electronics product type illustrate that the organized cargo criminal is still active and pursuing targeted freight.”

Televisions and displays was the most stolen category, accounting for more than a third of cases, while games consoles and accessories headed the list by value with an average loss value of $1.68m,

followed by computers  at $1.07m. Two-thirds of thefts were full truckload (FTL), but pilferage was also common (28 per cent) – likely because organized thieves use this for penetration testing and load verification.

Fictitious pickups and hijacking, while uncommon, is still much more prevalent in electronics thefts than in other product types.

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