Monday, May 20, 2013

New Law Targets Cargo Theft from Freight Trucks and Beyond

Punitive Fines Aimed at Deterring Would Be Criminals
Shipping News Feature

US – The New Jersey General Assembly approved legislation earlier this month aimed at cracking down on cargo theft in the area where the crime has grown into a serious problem. The new bill would create specific criminal provisions for cargo theft including fines against leading or organising a freight theft network with penalties of $250,000 for a second-degree crime, $500,000 for a first-degree offence or five times the value of property seized – whichever is greater. There will be a new criminal offence for operating a facility to sell or store stolen cargo plus additional fines against those convicted of cargo theft which will go to fund law enforcement against truck and other freight theft activity.

The new legislation (S-2092 / A-3003) is named after a founding member of the State Police Cargo Theft Unit, Lt. Scott Jenkins, who died of cancer in 2003, to mark his outstanding contribution in making the unit an efficient response to freight crime. Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said:

“Cracking down on cargo theft will make our roads safer for truckers and help our economy because these crimes drive up the prices for just about all goods sold in our state from televisions to tomatoes. New Jersey is a critical commerce and transportation hub, which has made it attractive to gangs that have made cargo theft a billion dollar problem. Giving law enforcement stronger laws and more resources will help them fight back against these sophisticated thieves.”

Cargo theft increased 147% in New Jersey from 2009 to 2010, making it a state to watch according to a survey by FreightWatch International, a Texas-based logistics security provider with Hudson and Middlesex counties ranking among the top ten risk zones in the country for such offences. Law enforcement estimates say thieves steal between $700 million and $1 billion worth of cargo every year in New Jersey, particularly in Port Elizabeth and Port Newark. Assemblyman Dave Rible, R-Monmouth and Ocean, the Assembly Republican Conference Leader, said:

“Roughly $1 billion worth of goods is stolen from New Jersey roads before it hits the stores. This is a very serious crime that puts lives at risk and deals a devastating blow to the economy, increasing prices of clothing, food, pharmaceuticals and just about any product delivered by truck. Lt. Jenkins was a pioneer in fighting cargo theft and we are proud to sponsor a law in his name that will give law enforcement the tools they need to deter cargo theft.”

The thieves in New Jersey seem to have gone out of their way to cement the reputation they have for liberating just about anything. Just last month a mystery tractor unit with California plates coupled up to a trailer carrying a 40 foot container before spiriting it away. The contents? 3,000 cartons of hamburger buns valued at a cool $100,000 en route to the Netherlands (jokes about the return of Patty Heist or the Hamburglar are unnecessary).