Criminal minds have seen an opportunity as ports in the U.S. scramble to clear cargo backlogs. Thieves are now targeting containers
with electronics and household goods.
In a press release, cargo theft tracking website CargoNet said there had been 359 incidents of supply chain theft and fraud across the U.S. and Canada in the third quarter of 2021. Of the 359 instances, 294 involved the theft of either cargo itself or a cargo transport vehicle. The site projects that cargo theft activity will remain elevated entering the final quarter of 2021.
CargoNet Vice President of Operations Keith Lewis said: "What we're going to see next year is probably going to be similar to what we're going to see this year, as far as electronics and the same type of commodities [are concerned.] I don't see us coming out of that for a few years."
"Theft reports along the West Coast increased 42 percent year-over-year. This comes as no surprise, as California continues to struggle with frequent thefts of high-end computer electronics shipments," CargoNet's press release stated.
The website said California was the No. 1 state most targeted by supply chain thieves, followed by Texas and Florida.
"Cargo thieves continued to show a strong preference for computer electronics shipments, and nearly 70 percent of these thefts in the third quarter of 2021 occurred in California. In contrast, household products thefts dropped 63 percent – largely because CargoNet recorded fewer pilferages of these products," CargoNet said.
Based on data from the website, cargo thefts from January to September 2021 amounted to about $45 million. Almost $68 million worth of goods were stolen in 2020, while $49 million worth of stolen cargo had been recorded in 2019.
During an appearance in the CBS
, The Travelers Companies crime and theft specialist Scott Cornell touched on the supply chain thefts
. "The more that the supply chain in general is backed up, the more cargo you're going to have sitting. [That] creates a bigger opportunity for thefts," he said.
Thefts contribute to ongoing supply chain issues
CargoNet's press release came amid cargo containers in Los Angeles falling victim to thieves. NBC 4 reported
that thousands of boxes littered the sides of rail tracks, purportedly either falling or being thrown from cargo containers aboard Union Pacific trains. The train operator carries goods from the L.A. and Long Beach ports, which are experiencing cargo backlogs. (Related: West Coast ports log jammed with about 60 container ships still waiting to dock; supply lines continue to suffer disruptions
Union Pacific said it is aware of the cargo thefts on its trains and is working with local law enforcement to address the issues. The train operator also has its own police force responsible for securing cargo on the tracks. Meanwhile, a port spokesman told NBC 4
that all cargo containers at the L.A. and Long Beach ports are safe. (Related: Empty shipping containers being DUMPED in neighborhoods near ports in California
However, Lewis said that thieves often do not victimize cargo containers still in ports or rail yards. Pilferage on parked delivery trucks contributed to more merchandise loss. Thieves pilfering cargo only steal a small amount from delivery trucks stopping along the way to a distribution center or warehouse.
Experts say pilferage is particularly difficult to track as drivers don't often notice missing cargo immediately. Thus, they are unaware which law enforcement entity to report the theft.
Cornell noted that most drivers fail to notice the missing cargo until they reach their destination and unload. This contributes to the difficulty in reporting thefts as they do not know exactly where the thieves struck.
"[Drivers don't] have any idea where that happened. So now, the [question becomes] 'who do we report this to?' Well, if you can't tell somebody where it happened, you don't really have anybody to report it to," Cornell said.
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