US cargo thefts drop in 2018, but threat level still high

The US recorded a 19 per cent decline in the number of cargo thefts in 2018 compared to the prior year, continuing a trend seen in recent years.

The new data from Sensitech reveals however that the rate of decline in incident numbers appears to be slowing, and with an average of 1.6 thefts each day during 2018 – valued on average at a little over $14,000 - the US retains its high threat level.

Among the trends noted in Sensitech’s annual report is that electronics was the most targeted product category by cargo thieves in 2018, the first time it has topped the ranking since 2009 and accounting for 20 per cent of all incidents, followed by home and garden (16 per cent) and food and drink (14 per cent).

Also prominent among 2018’s thefts included building and industrial (10 per cent), auto parts (7 per cent) and clothing and shoes (6 per cent), and there was a spike in the miscellaneous category – which mainly consists of mixed retail loads – to 11 per cent.

The miscellaneous category was notable for a lot of less than full loaf (LTL) thefts in which criminals targeted specific product categories, says Sensitech, and there was a general rise in the number of pilferage incidents.

One reason for this is that it thinks criminals may be shifting their activities away from full truckload (FTL) thefts, which have a higher risk of capture or disruption. Sometimes, the loss to any single owner in these cases is too low to trigger a police report or insurance claim, allowing the criminals to fly under the radar.

“Several cases or pallets of easily-acquired, targeted merchandise has enough potential value to a thief to discourage a riskier, albeit more profitable, dedicated trailer full of like product that carries much more risk of failure or capture,” says the report.

Geographically, theft volumes in Alabama and Pennsylvania are on the rise, with California and Texas once again claiming the top spots for most thefts in the year. The states that top the rankings do so typically because of factors such as the presence of large seaports that attract the attention of organised thieves.

“As volumes and values continue to change, the organised cargo thief is still shifting tactics to evade capture,” says Sensitech. “High value or low security will not be the determining factors in theft risk to cargo as thieves will adjust to the increased risk and modify their efforts accordingly.”

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