Ontario led the way in North America’s commercial cargo theft last year, with the Peel Region west of Toronto reporting some of the biggest losses of all.
“Most theft reports in the province came from the Greater Toronto area, namely, Brampton, Mississauga, and Toronto,” Peel Police Const. Vito Pedano said during a recent webinar on the issue.
Thefts increased from 284 tractors and 100 trailers in 2016 to 495 tractors and 249 trailers in 2018, said Peel Police Const. Gary Dias of the commercial auto crime bureau. The total volume has declined since the 2018 peak, but remains troubling.
Reported load thefts saw a similar increase from 170 in 2016 to a peak of 285 in 2018. Despite a reduction of thefts to 151 loads in 2019, the losses still amounted to a record $22 million.
“Whenever I see high values of loads being stolen, it’s gonna be inside jobs. Usually, 99.9 per cent of high-value loads are monitored, secured and they rarely go missing,” Dias added. “When they do go missing, something internally is happening, and it affects the business and the community as well.”
“The reality is, it’s organized crime. And what they do with these thefts is fund a lot more serious crimes,” said Stephen Laskowski, president of the Ontario Trucking Association. “Don’t get me wrong, this is serious crime. Go to a trucking company to try to pay for this, go for a driver that’s been threatened, etc. But we’re talking about another whole level of gun-running, sex trafficking, you name it, they’re involved in it. And the proceeds from these thefts go to those other ventures.”
Targeting cargo crime
Internal fleet strategies can make a difference.
Along with being aware of inside jobs and information potentially released by staff, Toronto Trucking Association president Stacey Jenkins discussed the importance of reporting thefts and prevention.
“The reporting is very critical,” Jenkins said. “When you have a tractor stolen, the sooner you can report it, the better it is, because odds are that trailer tractor is going to be used sometime within the next week for cargo theft.”
Jenkins also suggests using multiple security measures for trucking yards such as lighting, cameras, fencing, unmanned gates and guards, since it can be difficult to monitor a large volume of equipment and trailers.
“A big thing now, particularly on large companies, we have actual picture IDs. So the company has the driver’s name, a picture and ID number. We can track it and basically will tell companies who’s coming in. Driver so and so is coming in. Here’s his badge number. Here’s his ID number Make sure that load only gets released to this driver,” Jenkins said.
Different responses needed
But Laskowski noted a problem in the way law enforcement teams don’t differentiate between cargo theft and property theft.
“The response is different. What we need … is to see what Peel Region is doing, across Canada,” Laskowski said. “So that the response to the trailer theft or the truck theft is treated at the highest order to understand the connection with organized crime.”
He said the penalties do not seem to match the seriousness of the crime, and that carriers may not report thefts because of the lack of enforcement resources, or the risk of negative publicity and damaged reputations.
“This issue matters to us,” said Nando Iannicca, regional chairman of the Peel Police Service Board. “It’s not just crime, which always matters to us. It’s the fact that they’re impacting people’s livelihoods. It’s the fact that it affects insurance rates in Peel.”