Cargo Theft Target of Expanded Insurance Bureau of Canada Program

March 26, 2014

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) have joined forces with four large Ontario police services to launch a national program to fight cargo theft.

The rapidly escalating crime is costing Canadians up to $5 billion a year and is a significant problem in transportation hubs in southern Ontario, and in Vancouver and Montreal.

IBC and CTA will expand the current Cargo Theft Reporting pilot program, which is now in Ontario and Quebec, and across Canada, so that the trucking community, insurers and the authorities can better share timely information to help crack down on cargo theft.

All insurers in Canada and trucking association members can now report cargo thefts directly to IBC via an online submission form. IBC will act as a clearing house for cargo theft data, and will collect, analyze and promptly share information with a national network of law enforcement partners including Canadian and American border agencies. Law enforcement can ask IBC to search the database to help identify property and to speed its recovery.

A 2011 study commissioned by CTA, which pegged the cost of cargo crime at $5 billion per year, also linked it to organized crime rings, which use the proceeds of cargo theft to fund such activities as gun and drug smuggling. Cargo crime covers a number of criminal acts including theft, fraud and hijacking.

To highlight the sophisticated nature of organized cargo theft, IBC’s Garry Robertson, national director of IBC’s Investigative Services, gave the recent example of a tractor-trailer load of T-shirts. The trailer was stolen at 3 a.m. north of Toronto and by 6 a.m. some shirts were for sale at discount stores in small towns on Georgian Bay. By 9 a.m., the rest were on another truck crossing the Peace Bridge bound for Los Angeles with a final destination of India.

“Society can no longer view cargo crime as being victimless,” says David Bradley, president and CEO of Canadian Trucking Alliance. “It is exacting a huge toll, running into billions of dollars, on the Canadian economy and threatens the security of all Canadians. The development of Insurance Bureau of Canada’s nationwide cargo crime database is an essential tool for recovery of stolen freight and equipment, apprehending the criminals, developing and implementing appropriate countermeasures and quantifying the scope of the problem. CTA is pleased to partner with IBC and police services to help fight this growing problem and to encourage our members to utilize this new tool.”

Cargo theft involves a sophisticated network of criminals who commit the thefts and distribute the stolen goods. The stolen goods are usually items that people use on a daily basis such as laundry detergent, T-shirts, dry goods or electronic components. Well-organized systems are in place to move the products for quick sale in the underground economy. Often the products are parcelled out and sold well before the theft is reported. A thriving black market keeps these sophisticated and networked thieves in business.

The reporting of cargo theft is sporadic, which makes property recovery and prosecution a challenge. Although some companies do report their losses, others do not for fear of a damaged reputation, a negative impact on their business and on customer confidence, and increased insurance premiums. When losses are not reported, stolen property cannot be identified or recovered and thieves are not prosecuted.

But the effects of cargo theft reach beyond its direct impact on the Canadian economy. Cargo that is stolen and sold in illegal markets shifts revenues from legitimate businesses to criminals and depletes tax revenues. There is also the potential for violence by those who commit cargo crime, which puts the well-being of truck drivers and other industry employees at risk.

The Cargo Theft Initiative began as a pilot reporting project in 2011 in Ontario and Quebec. Working with CTA and member companies, IBC collected, analyzed and shared cargo loss information with law enforcement agencies. The project was an important first step in gathering consistent information on these crimes and led to several recoveries of stolen trailers and consumer goods.

Source: Insurance Bureau of Canada

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