Last week, undercover officers shot and killed a man suspected of trying to hijack a tractor-trailer and arrested his two accomplices. On June 2, thieves stole a tractor-trailer and its $115,000 cargo of fast-food restaurant equipment from outside a warehouse. The day before, two armed men hijacked an 18-wheeler in the Miami area, making off with a $1 million load of electronics and computer equipment. The driver was tied up and locked in the sleeper while they emptied the cargo and abandoned the truck.
So far this year, $6 million in cargo has been stolen from trucks in the state, according to the Florida Truckers Assn. Each year nationally, annual losses average about $6 billion, according to the Transportation Loss Prevention and Security Council.
In Miami, a task force called TOMCATS — Tactical Operation Multiagency Cargo Anti-Theft Squad — is made up of local, state and federal agents and detectives who work to prevent cargo thefts. Similar groups have been set up in other areas subject to cargo theft, such as New York/New Jersey, Los Angeles/Long Beach and the San Francisco Bay area. Major cities with ports are especially attractive to thieves because of the high volume of cargo coming through.
Law enforcement officers say former drug traffickers are turning to cargo theft because the penalties aren't as harsh if they're caught.