Cargo thefts of hard-to-find paper goods, personal protective equipment and food soared in 2020 as the black market for such items flourished during COVID-19.
Thieves have swiped everything from ventilators to toilet paper, according to data provided to USA TODAY by CargoNet, which tracks cargo loss incidents and advises authorities on how to avoid them. In some cases, organized criminals have targeted semi-trucks, while in other cases ordinary people have engaged in crimes of opportunity.
Recorded incidents of cargo thefts – ranging from major to minor incidents – increased 35% to 1,176 during the first 10 months of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019, according to CargoNet.
The biggest spikes occurred in April, May and June, when thefts increased 62% compared with the same period in 2019.
But thefts have increased every month, compared with a year earlier, including a 48% increase in September and 18% in October.
Keith Lewis, vice president of operations at Verisk Analytics-owned CargoNet, said the company has tracked a significant increase in “pilferages” – a crime that typically involves taking items from the back of a truck instead of stealing the entire rig.
The nation’s pandemic shortage of household paper goods led to a 130% increase in thefts of those items during the first 10 months of the year… USA TODAY