CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 08, 2019
Forward Thinking

Cargo thieves target containers rushed into U.S. ahead of threatened tariffs

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Glut of containerized freight is often stored under lax security, unsecured parking, Sensitech says.

Map: U.S. Cargo Theft, Q3 2019Cargo theft across the U.S. increased in the third quarter, with thieves targeting high-value items and making off with an average value of $155,709 per incident, according to the Beverly, Mass.-based supply chain visibility provider Sensitech Inc.

One main reason for the increase was companies' rush to import shipments from China before new rounds of White House tariffs take effect, causing a glut of containerized freight—particularly in Southern California—that is stored under the same type of lax security that is typically found in the fourth quarter shipping rush, Sensitech said.

Overall, thefts in the third quarter rose 13% in volume and 31% in value over the second quarter, while posting a rise of 3% in volume and a decrease of 8% in value compared to the same quarter last year, Sensitech said in its "U.S. Q3-2019 Cargo Theft Intelligence Report."

Sensitech based its report on tracking a total of 165 confirmed cargo thefts over the third quarter nationwide, not counting thefts of assets such as trailers and containers, or of last-mile courier parcels. That means the report focuses on large-scale incidents such as: full truckload theft, fictitious pickups, hijacking, pilferage, and facility thefts.

Due largely to the tariff-triggered container import rush, California remained the most stolen-from state with 26% of total thefts in the third quarter, the study found. The next most dangerous areas for cargo were Texas (10%), Georgia (9%), Florida (just under 9%), and a three-way tie between Illinois, New Jersey, and Tennessee (each with 6%).

Regardless of geography, thieves target the same situations in most thefts, with a whopping 74% of thefts in the study occurring in "unsecured parking" sites. In comparison, thefts from the warehouse or DC recorded just 15% of the total, and "secured parking" recorded 11%.

Despite those patterns, organized cargo thieves are shifting tactics to evade capture, as evidenced by a rise in "atypical" theft types such as facility theft and fictitious pickups, SensiTech said. "As cargo thieves continually adapt to the evolving logistical security landscape, new threats will take shape in the form of new theft methods and new targeted products in new regions. High value or low security will not be the only determining factors in theft risk to cargo as thieves will adjust to the increased risk and modify their efforts accordingly," the company said.

Further evidence that cargo thieves are becoming more organized can be found in their preference for stealing three top product types, including: electronics (particularly televisions or displays) at 21% of the total, home & garden (particularly appliances) at 19%, and food & drinks (particularly seafood or candy, cookies & snacks) at 14%.

Combined, those top three product types accounted for 54% of all third quarter cargo thefts, up from 53% in the second quarter, and up from 49% in the same quarter last year, the company found.

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