New cargo security council launched

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

YARMOUTH, Maine—A new industry group is forming in the mid-Atlantic region to combat cargo theft in the area.

The Virginia Carolinas Cargo Security Council will be modeled after a handful of other cargo security organizations in other parts of the country, Torry Shealy, a member of group's steering committee, told Security Director News. While cargo theft is a bigger problem in states like Florida, California and Texas than it is in Virginia and the Carolinas, Shealy said the region wants to be proactive.

"If you look at overall trends, it's trending toward an increase [in cargo theft] nationwide," said Shealy. "But if we can organize and have companies putting procedures in place and adopting some technology or just increase facility security, vetting of employees, etc., there's probably a good chance that they can protect themselves against this."

Shealy said the council's main missions will be to connect the industry with local and state law enforcement and to facilitate information sharing among different players in the supply chain, from manufacturers to distributors, trucking companies and warehouses. "A lot of times when you get security guys together, they'll say we tried this and we tried that," he said. "Getting together as a group and talking about that itself can be a great exchange of ideas as far as increasing security operations at your facility."

The Virginia Carolinas Cargo Security Council's steering committee also includes Jennifer Bennett, manager of asset protection at Polo/Ralph Lauren; Mike Johnston, regional security manager for DSC Logistics; Dennis Brannon, president of DRB Agency; and Doug Wilkes, DRB Agency's sales manager.

Cargo theft is hard to measure and track. However, anecdotal evidence suggests cargo theft is increasing. In 2010, LoJack Supply Chain Integrity, a company that tracks cargo and collects data on supply chain security, recorded 857 cargo-theft-related incidents in the country (813 were thefts, while the rest were fraud or counterfeit cases), which was nearly a quarter more than the number of incidents reported in 2009. The reason it’s anecdotal is that the report only paints a portion of the picture, J.J. Coughlin, LoJack's director of law enforcement services, told SDN. "In our reports, we probably have 20 percent of it," he said.

Adding to the confusion is that Coughlin can't say for sure if the amount of cargo theft is actually increasing or if the industry is just doing a better job of paying attention. Regardless, the monetary loss is certainly noteworthy. Each of those roughly 800 cargo thefts represents an average loss between $250,000 and $300,000, Coughlin said. "I know it's a huge problem," he said. "How huge? I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to tell."

Coughlin is also chairman of the SouthWest Transportation Security Council, which he created in 1999 and includes Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. The council has 300 members and, through a nationwide network of seven other cargo security councils, can reach 1,100 law enforcement officers with its alerts, Coughlin said. The growth has surprised even him. "We started with six people," he said. "I never knew it would turn into what it has."

Coughlin has helped Shealy and the Virginia Carolinas Cargo Security Council get off the ground. The more councils that exist across the country, the broader the reach of the network, Coughlin said. "What we're trying to do as an industry through these councils is provide a nationwide information share that ties together the industry and the police," he said. "Through all of that we're able to identify the methods of criminals and organized groups and we're able to assist police and industry in returning stolen property to its rightful owner."

The Virginia Carolinas Cargo Security Council will hold its inaugural meeting in Greensboro, N.C., on Feb. 8. Subsequent meetings will be held in South Carolina and Virginia in March and April. For more information, visit the council's website.