Sales of stolen goods – particularly pharmaceuticals – may hurt large-scale public health in the U.S., according to a cargo theft analysis conducted by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
“Cargo theft is not only a property crime that hurts the national economy, it can have a serious impact on public health and safety,” stressed Joe Wehrle, NCIB’s president and CEO, in the group’s 2010 National Cargo Theft report released this week.
“In one case, a load of insulin was stolen and stored at a warehouse while the thieves made arrangements to sell it on the black market,” he said. “There is no way to know if it was properly refrigerated during storage and unsuspecting consumers may have been at tremendous risk had they used tainted insulin.”
“The public health impact is the most frightening part of the cargo theft problem,” Brian Smidt, vp of NICB Data Analytics, told Fleet Owner. “We’re seeing an increase in the thefts of medicines and pharmaceuticals from previous years because it’s far more valuable. And these goods are not like stolen DVDs or televisions – if they aren’t stored properly, they can cause serious physical harm.
The NICB’s research identified 747 cargo thefts occurred across the U.S. nation in 2010 with an estimated loss value of $171 million, with most freight stolen from trucks or railroad cars, although the group stressed intermodal and air freight shipments are vulnerable as well.
However, that number may be quite low as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates that cargo theft costs the U.S. $15 billion to $30 billion a year – resulting in an estimated 20% mark-up in retail prices for consumers.
However, the occurrence of cargo theft may be even higher, since some businesses are reluctant to report thefts out of concern for their reputations or insurance premiums, the agency noted.
“A lot [of cargo theft] still goes unreported,” said NCIB’s Smidt. “However, we’re making a lot of inroads among trucking companies, shippers and insurance companies in terms of getting more collaboration to fight the problem,” he said.
According to NCIB’s research, the states with the most cargo theft incidents were: California (247), Texas (91), Florida (66), Illinois (56), Tennessee (40) and Georgia (39). Electronics were most often the theft target (139 thefts) followed by food (108) and clothing (73). February saw the most thefts with 113 followed by August (78) and June (76).
Los Angeles, Dallas, Memphis, Chicago, and Atlanta were among the US cities most affected by cargo theft, as the number of transportation and cargo related assets is high in these areas, providing thieves with easy access to large amounts of cargo, noted Joshua Stanfill, a senior strategic analyst with NCIB and main author of the group’s cargo theft report.
Yet, Memphis, TN, saw the most cargo thefts in 2010 at 24, according to NCIB – largely because Memphis is a major crossroads for interstate trucking with a large number of truck stops and warehouse facilities in the area, noted Stanfill.