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Truck Cargo Theft Activity Increasing in Pacific Northwest

November 4, 2014

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Washington State saw a record-breaking number of cargo thefts in the third quarter of the year along with a new tactics on the part of thieves, according to new report from the logistics security services provider FreightWatch International.

There were a total of six incidents in the last 12 months, with four of these happening July through September. In addition, half of the thefts in Washington State during the quarter were multiple trailer thefts -- one taking three trailers, and one getting away with four. This made the full truckload theft total nine in the quarter, 29% higher than the total number from 2010 through the second quarter of this year.

“This marks the first time FreightWatch has recorded a multiple trailer theft in Washington, a definite sign of experienced and organized cargo criminals,” the report said.

In one incident in Sumner, Wash., thieves broke into a yard and cut closed circuit television cords. They then proceeded to "shop" the trailers, breaking seals and opening the trailer doors to determine what merchandise they contained, according to FreightWatch.

“The thieves, now aware of the contents of the trailers, marked nine separate trailers to be removed,” the report said. “Three tractors were let into the yard by the thieves, and proceeded to steal four separate trailers before one became wedged on another trailer during removal, forcing the thieves to depart without all of their targets.”

This incident netted the thieves $1.35 million in laptops and other electronics.

The thieves are believed to be the same organized group that has committed nine trailer or container thefts in the Kent and Auburn areas in Washington State in August and September, according to the polic report. It also specifies that this group has ties to Sothern California, because stolen property from some of these thefts was recovered in the region, says FreightWatch.

In July 2014 FreightWatch said it was advised by the California Highway Patrol Cargo Theft Interdiction Program, when cargo theft levels in California declined during the second quarter of the year, that one probable cause was the relocation of an organized cargo theft ring that may be actively targeting high-value cargo in the Northwest U.S.

“If this is the case, we can expect to see much of the same types of cargo theft that has been seen in California, such as a higher than normal rate of deceptive pickups,” said FreightWatch.

Washington State recorded its first ever deceptive pickup in February of this year.

According to FreightWatch while the cargo theft numbers are still low for Washington State and the Northwest, there has been a definite surge in the typical theft volumes in this region.

FreightWatch also believes hotspots may emerge along I-5 and I-85, particularly near Portland, Ore., and Boise, Idaho, due to the concentration of truckstops and distance from the major shipping hub of  Seattle. It also expects that deceptive pickups will become more common in the region, particularly in the Seattle and Salt Lake City areas.

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