Catching Cargo Thieves

Posted on Mon, 2016-04-11 15:31
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Courtesy of the Insurance Bureau of Canada

Cargo theft is a roughly $5 billion problem that hits the trucking industry and its insurers hard. While some people consider cargo theft a victimless crime, that simply isn’t the case – all insurance policyholders foot the bill when it comes to theft and fraud.

But help is here. The Cargo Theft Reporting program, which has helped law enforcement agencies crack down on this rapidly spreading crime elsewhere in the country, has arrived in British Columbia.

Launched in 2014 by Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance, with the support of law enforcement agencies, the program not only helps in the arrest of perpetrators – it also helps return stolen property to its owners.

IBC works with its member insurers and CTA to collect, analyze and share cargo loss information with law enforcement agencies, including US and Canadian border agencies.

The program has gone nationwide since its initial launch as a pilot project in Quebec and Ontario in 2011, enabling the trucking community, insurers and enforcement authorities to better share timely information to crack down on cargo theft.

All insurers and trucking association members in Canada can now report cargo thefts directly to IBC via an online form. IBC keeps all of the submitted information in a database. Law enforcement agencies can search the database to help identify stolen property and to speed the recovery process.

In response to carriers’ concerns regarding privacy, the revamped program includes a rigorous process for receiving and storing cargo theft data and sharing it – on a 24/7 basis – with law enforcement officials.

A 2011 study commissioned by CTA pegged the cost of cargo crime at $5 billion per year and linked it to organized crime rings, who use the proceeds to fund activities such as gun and drug smuggling. Cargo crime can involve a number of criminal acts including theft, fraud and hijacking.

Cities with large ports and import/export infrastructure, such as Vancouver, are prime candidates for cargo crime activity.

Organized cargo theft can be very sophisticated. In one case in Ontario, a trailer packed with T-shirts was stolen at 3 am north of Toronto, and by 6 am some of the shirts were for sale at discount stores in small Ontario towns on Georgian Bay, more than 200 kilometres distant.

By 9 am, the rest of the shirts were on another truck crossing the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario, bound for Los Angeles with a final destination of India.

The stolen goods are usually items that people use on a daily basis such as laundry detergent, T-shirts, dry goods or electronic components. Well-organized systems are in place to move the products for quick sale in the underground economy.

The reporting of cargo theft is sporadic, which makes prosecution and property recovery a challenge. Although some companies do report their losses, others do not out of fear that it will harm their reputations or lead to higher insurance premiums.

Now, with cargo theft reporting across the country, sharing information about these crimes will be easier and faster – with more collaboration between trucking companies, insurers and police services. It is this kind of cooperation that is having a definite impact on cargo theft.

BCTA encourages members who experience cargo theft to take part in this program and to share information about it with carriers who might also be affected.

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