Echoing the sentiments of the Canadian trucking industry, CTV’s W5 recently aired a three-part special report on cargo crime and how the growing problem is affecting carriers and consumers alike.
W5 featured CTA President David Bradley, who said cargo theft is one of the most lucrative criminal activities in Canada. It rarely makes headlines, yet it’s costing consumers and the economy an estimated $5 billion a year.
“A decade or so ago, it was probably a more opportunistic crime,” Bradley told W5. “But what I think has occurred is that organized crime syndicates have seen that it’s relatively low risk, high reward, and there seems to be a market for just about anything somewhere in the world.”
Once thieves get their hands on a load, selling it is easy. Organized crime groups know who is in the market for a particular product and often have buyers lined up, or the goods are sold off piecemeal to corner stores and flea markets. Some buyers have no idea they’re paying for a stolen product while many others don’t care, police sources told the program.
“There’s a lot of willful blindness,” said Detective Sergeant Paul LaSalle, the head of the Auto Cargo Theft Unit at York Regional Police, one of just two specialized teams in the country.
Mike Grabovica, the owner of Birdseye, a company that sells security systems, took the W5 crew on a tour of transportation facilities and storage yards in the GTA. Even facilities with security cameras are easy to penetrate. They passed through open gates without challenge, hung around in plain view and checked to see if trailers were loaded.
Standing in the middle of one yard, Grabovica said, “We’re knocking on trucks. We’re trying to open doors. I mean, if this isn’t acting suspiciously, I don’t know what is.”
As W5 reported, only Peel and York Regional Police have forces in Canada with specialized cargo theft units. When thieves are actually caught, the punishment is not severe enough.
“The people that are involved in various crimes get suspended sentences or they get off because they haven’t been caught before,” said David Bradley. “I think most people would feel that the penalties aren’t sufficient to really act as a deterrent.”
To help fight cargo crime, W5 highlighted the recent joint initiative between trucking associations, law enforcement and the Insurance Bureau of Canada in developing the National Cargo Theft Reporting Program to keep track of cargo theft across the country. It’s already making a difference.
“We’re seeing the recovery numbers change drastically because we are getting hits on the database,” said Garry Robertson of the Insurance Bureau of Canada. “The police are finding the property now and we are able to get it back and get it to the insurer, trucking company or whoever is the owner.”
See the full three-part series here.