An expert in cargo theft advised warehouse operators and motor carriers to spare no expense when it comes to securing their assets because thieves are becoming ever more sophisticated in carrying out their trade.
Cargo thieves are career criminals who can disable a warehouse alarm system in 20 seconds or hot-wire a truck and drive off in 30 seconds, Gerardo Pachuca, a detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Cargo Cats unit, told the Harbor Transportation Club of Southern California Thursday.
Cargo theft is a national problem that totals more than $25 billion a year. Most of the thefts occur without any physical violence toward individuals, so criminal penalties tend to be light. Pachuca cited a recent case in which the thief was convicted of stealing $300,000 of frozen lamb, and he served six days in jail with three years’ probation.
Since cargo theft is normally treated as a minor felony, practitioners remain in the business for many years. When they are caught, they drop out for awhile but then return to the same type of crimes.
The first step warehouse operators should take to protect their facilities is to secure the perimeter with fencing and adequate lighting. Even sophisticated camera surveillance systems require good lighting to maximize effectiveness at night.
Special attention should be paid to those locations in the warehouse where cargo must exit when stolen. Therefore, one camera providing a panoramic view of the facility will most likely not be sufficient. High-value cargo should be further secured within the facility.
“Cargo thieves do their homework,” Pachuca said. They invariably case the facility, knowing when it is open and closed, where the security weaknesses are and what the operating procedures are. When stealing trailers or containers in the parking lot, they can usually zero in immediately on the specific unit they want.
Many truck thefts occur because of carelessness by the driver, who may leave the truck unattended at a truck stop or overnight in an unsecured area. Thieves occasionally pay off a driver and then stage a hijacking. They will also hire former drivers to carry out fraudulent pickups at warehouses because the drivers know the routine and the documentation that is needed.
The hot trend now is internet fraud theft, Pachuca said. Experienced thieves can secure all of the information they need from the websites of the retailers and logistics firms before carrying out the crime. Persons responsible for handing over cargo must gather as much information as possible from the trucker that picks up the load. They should use the phone number listed on the website of the motor carrier because thieves today use throw-away cell phones for such crimes.