Criminal elements are becoming increasingly creative in using the internet to pull off cargo thefts throughout the supply chain, law enforcement detectives told a meeting of Harbor Truckers for a Sustainable Future in Long Beach.
Cargo thieves are using the internet to track shipments, book transportation with legitimate motor carriers, or, conversely, to set up bogus trucking operations that arrange cargo pick-ups for legitimate shippers and forwarders.
Even rival street gangs that are known for their involvement in the narcotics trade are cooperating with each other in cargo theft activities because stolen merchandise such as flat-screen TVs are easy to sell, and penalties if caught are not severe, said Chae Song, a detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Ken Huerta, detective sergeant with the Port of Los Angeles Police, said cargo thieves are using the internet to secure information on shipments. They get the shipping documentation they require, sometimes from inside sources, in order to secure release of the cargo.
These thieves may call a legitimate harbor trucking company whose drivers have Transportation Worker Identification Credentials to pick up the container at the marine terminal and deliver it to a non-descript warehouse location.
Huerta said another ploy is for thieves to advertise on-line as a trucking company. Cargo interests or intermediaries whose regular motor carrier is unavailable for a particular job will hire the sham operation. The fly-by-night operator may hold the cargo hostage and demand a large sum of money to release it, or the thief may sell the merchandise.
Marc Zavala, a detective with the commercial crimes unit of the Los Angeles Police Department, said the best way for motor carriers and shippers to prevent cargo theft is to perform due diligence throughout the supply chain.
Trucking companies should do a thorough background check on drivers who apply for employment, including verifying all references. Drivers involved in cargo theft often move from state to state.
Shippers and forwarders who intend to hire a trucking operation they are not familiar with should demand proof of insurance and then call the insurance company to verify that the operator has coverage, Zavala said.
Victims of cargo theft should report all incidents to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The agencies need all the information they can get to build a data base.
Zavala said the detectives are there to retrieve stolen cargo and trucks and to catch the criminals. "I don't like people who steal," he said.
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