TORONTO – As reaction to yesterday’s bizarre six-hour police chase involving a stolen flatbed tractor-trailer clearly illustrates, the problem of cargo crime still isn’t being taken as seriously as it should be.
Most media coverage of the high-profile incident focused on a “trucker” who led police up and down the QEW in a tractor with an empty flatbed trailer after allegedly stealing it from a Niagara area truck stop. Not known at the time was that the tractor-trailer unit had a load of wafer board on it when it was stolen that had already been off-loaded by the time the chase was on. And, according to CTA, the thief does not appear to be a professional driver by any standard.
In fact, there’s speculation today that the suspect in yesterday’s incident was out on bail after being charged in December 2010 for possession of a load of stolen Sony PlayStation products, valued at $1 million. According to recent news reports, the same man is also alleged to have been arrested in November 2009 by Halton Regional Police and charged with possession of stolen property, failure to comply with probation and failure to comply with bail requirements.
David Bradley, CTA’s president says “yesterday’s incident highlights the need to take cargo crime more seriously and it demonstrates how truck drivers work together to protect themselves and to fight cargo crime.”
According to CTA, another truck driver, a colleague of the owner-driver of the stolen rig, alertly spotted the tractor-trailer on Highway 401 and became suspicious when his colleague didn’t respond to his CB call. He then called his friend’s cell who told him his truck had been stolen. The whereabouts of the stolen vehicle were then relayed to police who started the intercept-recover process.
Yesterday’s theft reportedly occurred in a well-lit, secure parking lot that is monitored 24/7.The driver who owned the truck apparently had been parking it there for 20 years and the trailer was equipped with an immobilizing device.
“And, yet, the thief was still able to take the unit,” says Bradley. “Thankfully, the event ended peacefully. The police should be commended for keeping the travelling public safe and bringing the stolen truck to a safe stop. But it could have been much worse. What happened shows us that the industry, government and the enforcement agencies must do a better job of working together to develop countermeasures to combat this serious area of criminality.”
“Cargo crime and truck hijacking puts hard-working truck drivers at grave risk,” says Bradley, “and the proceeds from these crimes usually fund violent organized criminal enterprises involved in drugs, smuggling and weapons trafficking.”
“Often, there is little to no risk but potentially huge profits to be made. If perpetrators keep getting out on bail or serve only very short sentences, what’s stopping them from doing this again? Much tougher sentencing is needed.”
Recently passed federal legislation aimed at curbing vehicle theft and the sale of stolen property by organized crime syndicates through stiffer sentences could also apply to tractors, trailers and cargo theft. “This is a positive step,” says Bradley. “But it’ll be up to the Crown attorneys and the courts to recognize the link to organized crime and hand out the stiffer sentences upon conviction.”
According to CTA, cargo crime is a $5 billion problem in Canada, but has for too long been considered a victimless crime since the stolen goods are often at least partially covered by cargo insurance. As a result, few resources have been dedicated to apprehending the criminals involved in cargo crime, which in turn has caused much of it to go unreported.
The trucking industry has taken the initiative to strengthen security and implement theft mitigation strategies. For example, CTA’s own Cargo Crime Incident Report program, which in collaboration with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, aims to document cargo crime incidents as a first step towards establishing a national database. However, despite the advancements in anti-theft technology and increased diligence by the industry, cargo thieves are seemingly able to use their vast network of criminal resources to remain two steps ahead.