Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Cargo Crime

By Joe Birch - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Distribution is the lifeblood of the Memphis economy.  The city, known as "America's Distribution Center," is the home of FedEx, 300 trucking companies, a large river port, and a major railroad hub.

Cargo thieves have taken note of all that freight traffic, and a task force is now working to fight cargo crime to protect our economy.

When a tractor trailer load of electronics, pharmaceuticals, or other valuable goods gets stolen around Memphis, FBI agent Torrence White gets a call.

"Sleep is very little," White said. "We get up in the middle of the night and we're on the interstate. We're looking."

The roads, river, rails and runways in Memphis make the area a prime target for cargo crooks. For instance, West Memphis police recently nabbed a pair would-be hijackers suspiciously scoping out a truck stop.

"These guys had laptop computers," said Lester Ditto of the Mid-South Cargo Security Council. "They had maps. They had binoculars and no good excuse for being over here."

Over two million trucks passed over the bridges at Memphis in 2009, and that only counts the trucks that had to stop at weigh stations.

"Of course they're going to come where the most freight is," Ditto said. "It's kind of like fishing. You're going to come where the fish are biting."

"We're talking about organizations who plan to take two or three trailers at a time, valued from $20,000 to $3 million dollars a pop," White added. "It's definitely an organized group, and that's what we're focused on."

Agent White is the only FBI agent assigned to the Mid-South Cargo Task Force. It works with local police and groups, like the Mid-South Cargo Security Council, led by Ditto, a logistics expert.

"What we're hearing from the FBI is the ties into cargo crime," Ditto said. "It's not just a property crime. It ties into terrorism to fund terrorism. The gangs are getting more bolder in taking freight because there's such a profit in it."

Cargo crooks try to pick off any load of value - even food and drinks.  For instance, in January Chopper 5 was overhead when a pair was busted after being accused of stealing Red Bull energy drinks from the Navy Base in Millington. This kind of crime is so pervasive, two Memphis conferences are addressing cargo security this week: one for the cargo industry, another for law enforcement. It's all designed to keep Memphis and the Mid-South as free of cargo crime as possible!

184 law enforcement officers from all over America are at Embassy Suites in East Memphis this week for a conference on cargo crime.  You can learn more about cargo crime by visiting the Mid-South Cargo Security Council's website by clicking here.

We're always interested in solution oriented people who are fighting crime in your neighborhood.  Call our Taking Back Our Neighborhoods hotline with your story at 1-888-812-9131.

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