Cargo Theft Up 57% in 2023

CargoNet: 2023 witnesses a 57% surge in cargo theft incidents. Innovative tech emerges as a key defense.

Cargo Theft Up 57% in 2023
Image Source: CNBC

In 2023, CargoNet, a Verisk company, recorded a significant rise in cargo theft incidents, with a startling 57% increase compared to the previous year. CargoNet estimates the value of stolen goods is at nearly $130 million, though actual figures could be exponentially higher as reporting is not mandatory.

In 2023, thieves stole over $20 million in shipments in the first quarter, over $44 million in the second quarter, over $31.1 million in the third quarter, and over $24.9 million in the fourth quarter.

Unprecedented Increase

The increase in theft is alarming:

  • 68% year-over-year increase in Q4 2023.
  • In the first 20 weeks of 2023, there was a 41% increase in incidents.
  • 220 plus monthly reports of cargo theft, a stark rise from about 100 a month in 2014.

Geographical Hotspots

The most affected states are California, Texas, and Florida, with increasing reports from inland logistics hubs like Louisville, Kentucky.

Cargo theft hotspots remain largely unchanged from 2022. Image Source: CNBC

Technological Innovations

To combat this rise, companies are turning to technology:

  • Digitally locking systems, telematics, and real-time tracking.
  • Product-level tracking, a key focus for Uber Freight.
  • Overhaul's smart door seal with GPS and Bluetooth technology, demonstrated in Louisville, Kentucky, alerts when tampered with.

Cargo Train Theft: A Rising Threat on the Southern Border

In addition to the general rise in cargo theft, a worrying trend is emerging on the southern border, specifically involving cargo train robberies. A New York Times article investigates the resurgence of an old-fashioned crime now plaguing the modern e-commerce-driven supply chain.

Packages strewn across LA railroad tracks after Union Pacific train looting.
  • Theft Statistics: Reported cargo theft cases in the United States have nearly doubled since 2019. The Los Angeles basin, in particular, has become a hotbed for these incidents, with theft from trains and trucks significantly increasing.
  • The Llamas Case: Victor Llamas, a suspect interrogated by the Train Burglary Task Force, exemplifies the issue. His detailed knowledge of shipping containers and their contents highlights the sophistication of modern thieves. Llamas and his girlfriend, Connie Arizmendi, were known to target trains, often storing their loot in motel rooms.
  • Union Pacific's Struggle: Union Pacific reported that 90 containers were being opened daily, a 160% increase from the previous year. The theft included various goods, even firearms, adding to the alarm.

The scale of this problem is massive; around 20 million containers move through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach annually, with about 35% of U.S. imports from Asia. Once these containers leave the security of the ports, they become prime targets for theft.

Key industry figures discussed the trend in rail robberies on X. In the exchange below, Founder of Y Combinator Paul Graham and Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen exchange thoughts on the influence of organized crime groups on the rise in theft.

As speculations for the increase swirl– one thing is clear: there is a need for more robust security measures and innovative solutions to protect the integrity of the supply chain in a time dominated by e-commerce.

Source: CNBC | NY Times | Verisk

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