On the Case
Cargo theft does not receive the kind of media coverage afforded crimes like identity theft, which directly impact consumers. But that doesn’t mean law enforcement isn’t on the case when retailers complain about missing and lost shipments of goods. There are several regional multi-jurisdictional task forces across the country at ports of entry, on the highways and along railroad tracks.
The FBI classifies cargo theft as a “gateway” crime because, in many instances, a cargo theft investigation will turn into a case involving “organized crime, public corruption, health care fraud, insurance fraud, drug trafficking, money laundering or possibly even terrorism,” according to a report issued late last year.
Cargo thefts are handled by local and state law enforcement agencies unless an interstate aspect is firmly established and federal agencies can get involved. The FBI, for example, works with seven cargo task forces in five metropolitan areas: Chicago, El Paso, Memphis, Miami and New York.
A recent cargo theft investigation started with a routine traffic stop in Union City, N.J., where the officer confiscated a load of LCD televisions suspected of being stolen. Union City PD detectives uploaded serial numbers to the CargoNet Critical Reach system, usually referred to as TRACK. The system quickly made a match via an insurance claim filed for stolen merchandise.
“By calling CargoNet, we were able to save a significant amount of time because within a matter of hours, CargoNet was able to connect all the dots between the theft victim, the victim’s insurance company and law enforcement,” says Capt. Brian Barrett, head of the Union City PD investigative bureau. “CargoNet’s assistance allowed our police supervisors and case managers to reallocate precious investigative resources to other pressing tasks.”