Estimated $30bn of cargo is stolen each year, according to the FBI

Cargo theft poses “a real and rising threat” to the economy and national security of the US, reports the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Criminal groups targeting cargo have become more organised and more violent over the past few years, causing losses from thefts to increase.

The exact dollar losses due to cargo theft are unknown, as companies often fail to report such crimes in order to avoid bad publicity and higher insurance rates. However, industry experts estimate the losses to be up to US$30bn per year.

Victims of cargo theft might include employees, such as warehouse workers, who can be injured during robbery. Or retailers, who lose merchandise, or state and local governments, who lose sales tax revenue.

According to the FBI, current high value favourites being re-sold on the black market include: cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, computer and other electronic components.

The FBI also asserts that cargo theft is a “gateway” crime, often turning into cases involving organised crime, drug trafficking, insurance and health care fraud and even terrorism. Criminal groups use the earnings gained from stealing cargo in order to fund their illegal operations.

Many cargo thefts in the US are investigated by local law enforcements, though violent interstate crimes will be investigated by the FBI.

When a crime becomes an international affair, which is frequent with cargo theft, the FBI is aided by their international partners and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.