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Low-risk, high-reward cargo theft major problem in Canada: Insurance Bureau

FAIZA AMIN | posted Friday, Feb 10th, 2017

food thefts

On two separate occasions this week, cargo trucks containing milk and fruit have been robbed in the GTA and the incidents are raising questions as to how often these crimes occur.

Peel Police say $50,000 worth of milk was stolen from the back of a large transport truck in Mississauga on Wednesday, a little before 6 a.m. Days earlier, on Sunday, Hamilton Police asked for the public’s help to locate $100,000 worth of blueberries and other fruit, after suspects gained access to a commercial truck that was eventually driven into Toronto.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, there was $42.3 million worth of stolen property in 2016 that was reported to their offices. These are described as low-risk, high-reward crimes that the Bureau says is a major problem in Canada, and these thefts cost the Canadian economy $5 billion each year.

With food thefts, the Bureau says no one has ever determined where exactly the stolen goods go.

“It might land on the shelf of a wholesaler two days before its expiry date, and may be starting to turn,” said Dan Beacock, Director of Auto Theft with the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

But just how do the stolen food items get on the shelves?

“Usually that’s probably going to be word of mouth, underground network, somebody knows somebody who knows somebody,” Beacock explains. “They might get sold through the black market to variety stores and convenience stores.”

Value of the stolen foods often depreciates over time and there’s a major public safety concern over the resale of the items.

“Sometimes the people buying it have no idea,” said Beacock. “It’s not like a car and it has a serial number on it, that’s part of the problem.”

To address these cargo thefts, the Bureau launched a national reporting program in 2014, and over the years saw a steady climb in this types of crime.

In 2015, there were 836 cargo thefts in Canada. The number more than doubled the following year, with 1,670 reports in 2016. Most of those were in Ontario.

The value of the recovered stolen goods has increased from $2.7 million in 2014, to just over $25 million in 2016.

“The more we get in the data base, the better the items will be found,” Beacock said.

That data isn’t completely reflective of all cargo thefts in the country. In some cases, Beacock says police are inaccurately investigating the reports as vehicle thefts, rather than cargo thefts.

Trucking companies aren’t always reporting the incident to the IBM, either because they’re not familiar with the cargo theft reporting system, or Beacock says they may fear the incident could affect their insurance. The IBM says reporting these crimes will not increase your insurance premiums in any way.

“The trucking industry is starting to see that there’s value in starting to report,” said Beacock. “We’re helping police to recover and on a number of cases make some arrests.”

Last year, the IBC says it made 34 arrests and laid 203 charges under the cargo theft reporting system. The Bureau doesn’t know how trucks are getting targeted, but Beacock speculates it could be a mixture of convenience, opportunity, or a planned theft.

“Other times they could be conducting surveillance, watching the place, having an inside man in the warehouse, who knows.”

The province’s main trucking core, Highway 401, is a hotbed for this type of criminal activity.

“That’s where we find the majority of our thieves,” Beacock explains. “I’m not saying that’s the only place, we’re also seeing them in rural areas and Trans Canada as well.”

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