Cargo thefts could make for an un-Merry Christmas, and a sad New Year

Updated Dec 29, 2023
Cargo theft map

The upcoming Christmas-New Years holiday period is prime time for cargo thieves.

CargoNet reports that supply chain theft activity remains extremely high and believes it will continue into the holiday season as experienced cargo thieves will seek to exploit a target-rich environment of unattended trucks and closed warehouses.

CargoNet has reviewed theft data from a 10-day analysis period spanning Dec. 23 to Jan. 2 for the past five years to help industry professionals secure their supply chains for the upcoming holiday. In this analysis, there were 205 incidents reported to CargoNet, and the average cargo theft was valued at $121,473. The number of incidents increased progressively each year. Last holiday season, there were 56 incidents reported between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2.

Like previous years, incidents were most common in Texas and California, tied at 18% of incidents in each state. Incidents in other major cargo theft hotspots remain common. Incidents in Florida tripled from 2021 to 2022. Pennsylvania also saw an increase from none reported in 2021 to five reported incidents in 2022. In Georgia, Illinois, and Tennessee, cargo theft incidents remained consistent year-over-year.

Household commodities such as appliances, furniture, and cleaning supplies are the most targeted commodities by cargo thieves’ type. Electronics commodities like televisions and computers were the second most targeted commodity type, but CargoNet said it notes that commodity preferences closely mimic consumer demand.

Thieves most often stole unattended vehicles and shipments parked at major retail parking lots and truck stops. However, fictitious pickups have become a favored form of theft over the last year and CargoNet expects fictitious pickups will be a favored form of theft over the holiday period. CargoNet also said incidents at warehouse/distribution centers were a close third to these two categories. This is a common theft location for fictitious pickup incidents.

Recent Trends

Since November 2022, CargoNet has recorded over 600 strategic cargo thefts in the United States. In previous years CargoNet recorded an average of 58 strategic cargo thefts per year. Most thefts have occurred in the state of California. Aside from a slight increase on Friday, thefts were evenly distributed throughout the workweek. Cargo thieves still prefer shipments of energy drinks, sodas, liquor, hard seltzers, motor oils, tires, and solar panels. In recent months, CargoNet said it has noticed a wider range of commodities have been targeted, including shipments of footwear, clothing, beauty products, ATVs, and construction equipment.

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CargoNet said it expects that both strategic cargo thefts and theft of unattended, loaded conveyances will remain at elevated levels throughout the holiday period.

Noteworthy thefts from previous winter holidays

  • $507,105 theft of tequila from Tampa, Florida
  • $500,000 theft of footwear from Douglasville, Georgia
  • $440,000 theft of apparel and home products from Union City, California
  • $400,000 theft of mattresses from Columbia, Maryland
  • $318,759 theft of laptops from Livermore, California