A new report from logistics security services provider FreightWatch International shows the total number of cargo thefts in the United States last year was close to the record level set in 2011 -- and one type of theft did set a record.
Meat was one of the hot items targeted for theft.
Meat was one of the hot items targeted for theft.

FreightWatch recorded 940 such incidents, only 0.53% lower than the record-setting number for 2011, but it expects the number to increase in the coming weeks due to delayed reporting. Last years number is notably higher than total levels for 2009 and 2010.

For 2012, it says there were an average of two and half reported cargo thefts each day and just over 78 every month. Of these, 760 were full truckload or container thefts, while 41 were less-than-truckload losses.

Deceptive/fictions freight pickups skyrocketed, hitting its highest level on record, with just over 60 such incidents reported, an increase of 763% from 2009s level of just eight reported incidents.

In its 2012 U.S. Cargo Theft Report, FreightWatch said while such thefts are only 6.5% of overall cargo theft in 2012, the rise of deceptive pickups, and the decline of violent methods, such as hijackings, represents the evolution of cargo theft.

It also notes that deceptive pickups, which generally involve stealing the identity of a legitimate cargo carrier in order to broker the transport of the load, are a much lower risk method of theft than traditional trailer thefts.

Violence, it says, was associated with only a little more than 2% of all cargo thefts. Conversely, driver theft increased in 2012 from a relatively stable level from 2009 through 2011, rising roughly 150%.

The Hot Item: It's not Electronics

While electronics were one of the biggest types of cargo theft just a few years ago, accounting for nearly 1 out of 3 in 2007, the percentage of them last year dropped to a new low of just 12% of all cargo thefts.

Seemingly replacing it, at least the past three years, has been a rise in the number of meat thefts, due to the rise in the price of corn.

"As the price of corn rises in the U.S. (typically based on factors such as drought), the cost of raising cattle also rises," says the report. "This causes a spike in the price of meat, and therefore its desirability by thieves."

Meat thefts saw a dramatic increase in 2011, spiking from seven thefts in the first quarter of 2011 to 17 in the second quarter of the same year, an increase of 58.82%. While 2011 was the worst year for recorded thefts of meats, thefts targeting these products remained higher in all four quarters of 2012 than in the years leading up to 2011.

FreightWatch says with the U.S. Drought Monitor predicting drought conditions to worsen, thefts of meat products will likely rise in direct relation. This increase likely helped make the food and drink category the most stolen type of commodity, accounting for 1 out of 5 cargo thefts by product type, followed by metals and electronics

Metals also continued their attractiveness for cargo thieves, says FreightWatch, due to a sharp increase in the value of copper.

Almost doubling in both number of incidents and percentage of overall thefts, metals went from 73 thefts (7.73%) in 2011 to 140 thefts (14.89%) in 2012. Due to the relatively low security on these loads, coupled with the ease of liquidating the goods for cash, Metals are being aggressively targeted by cargo thieves nationwide.

Hot Spots

Despite the changes in the landscape when it comes to the increasing number of cargo theft, as well as types of cargo stolen, the report shows the problem is still isolated relatively to just a few states, though it is expanding somewhat.

Most of the top states saw a decrease in the number of thefts over 2011, says the report. California, steadily in first place year after year, still claims the top spot but dropped from 254 thefts in 2011 to 229 in 2012. Similarly, Florida dropped from 135 to 132, while New Jersey saw a dramatic drop from 126 to 76.

Texas, on the other hand, rose from 105 in 2011 to 122 in 2012. Georgia, Illinois and Pennsylvania also saw slight increases, from 60 to 67, 54 to 60 and 24 to 29, respectively. Michigan, however, boasted the largest change, increasing from seven in 2011 to 22 in 2012.

FreightWatch says while the top six states accounted for almost 78% of all cargo theft in 2011, the same six states, still the top six, made up 73% of overall cargo theft in 2012. This, it says illustrates the extending reach of cargo criminals, who are now traveling farther to obtain their targeted merchandise.

If there is any encouraging news about this new report, it shows the average value per theft continues moving lower, falling from its peak of $554,105 in 2009 to $174,298 last year, the lowest on record. FreightWatch says this is due to the number of thefts with losses topping $1 million dollars falling from 31 in 2010 to 13 in 2012, and the cargo business doing a better job of securing high-value shipments.

Other notable findings in the report are that January, March and April were the months with the highest number of cargo thefts in 2012, while theft by the day of the week is the highest during and close to the weekend, with Wednesday being the days with the fewest such reported incidents.