Organized cargo theft is up 57% from last year, with thieves now targeting Nike products.

Organized cargo theft is up 57% from last year, with thieves now targeting Nike products.

Organized Cargo Theft: A Growing Threat to the Retail Sector


While smash-and-grab robberies have long plagued the retail industry, a new form of organized crime is becoming increasingly prevalent: cargo theft. This sophisticated criminal activity involves targeting cargo shipments and redirecting them away from their intended recipients. With the surge in this type of theft, industry leaders are sounding the alarm and describing the perpetrators as “emboldened.”

As the country began its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, smash-and-grab robberies dominated headlines, with high-profile incidents occurring in California, targeting stores like Louis Vuitton, Best Buy, and Nordstrom. However, the focus has now shifted to a more sophisticated and lucrative form of theft: organized cargo theft.

According to statistics from CargoNet, there has been a staggering 57% increase in cargo theft in the US and Canada compared to the previous year. These daring thieves have managed to get away with over $44 million worth of stolen shipments in the second quarter of this year alone. The stolen goods are obtained through elaborate schemes, utilizing stolen credentials from logistics brokers or falsified pickup addresses. In some cases, the thieves even make off with entire loaded trailers.

Criminal enforcement for such cases is complex and rare, further emboldening these organized groups. CargoNet warns that cargo thieves are now targeting high-value shipments, leading to an increase in the average shipment value per incident, reaching an average loss of $260,703 per theft.

One striking revelation from The Wall Street Journal is that Nike shipments are among the most commonly targeted for theft. This renowned athleticwear brand has fallen victim to theft at every stage of the supply chain, from distribution centers and warehouses to delivery trains and trucks. In June, Los Angeles authorities recovered $3 million worth of stolen Nike goods, including boxes of the highly coveted NOCTA x Nike Glide, a collaboration between Nike and hip-hop star Drake.

The popularity of limited edition Air Jordans and other select styles among consumers has made these stolen goods even more valuable on the resale market, fetching prices significantly higher than their retail value. The allure of such lucrative gains has made Nike products a prime target for cargo thieves.

Cargo theft incidents are not limited to specific regions. However, due to their proximity to major shipping ports, states like California, Texas, Florida, and Illinois experience a higher frequency of thefts. Nevertheless, incidents are being reported across the country, highlighting the pervasive reach of this criminal activity.

The impact of organized cargo theft on the retail industry cannot be overlooked. CNBC News reports an uptick in personal spending, but retailers are still grappling with the changing consumer landscape. With more buyers turning to e-commerce, some retailers have been forced to close their doors entirely in an attempt to mitigate losses. Walmart has already closed stores in Chicago, Portland, and Albuquerque, while Target has shuttered locations in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and the DC area.

The severity of the situation is evident. “We’ve seen stores that are completely shutting down their business and moving out of the communities that we serve,” said Nick Stewart, a detective with the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department, in an interview with WSJ. This alarming trend of closures reflects the urgent need to combat organized cargo theft and protect the retail sector.

In conclusion, the surge in organized cargo theft poses a significant threat to the retail industry. As these thieves become more emboldened, it is imperative for businesses to strengthen their security measures and collaborate with law enforcement agencies to combat this growing menace. The retail sector’s resilience and ability to adapt to changing consumer behavior are critically important, ensuring that consumers can continue to enjoy a safe and enjoyable shopping experience.