| April 07, 2005

Billions of dollars are lost and many lives risked every year as ever-bolder thieves loot the trucking industry.

Thick with Thieves
Thieves learn the hard way that an idling Pete isn’t as innocent as it looks.

Miami Heat
Some thieves turn to desperate measures to take cargo.

Dwindling Resources
Cargo theft takes a back seat to war on terror.

Protecting the Goods
Fleets, retailers and trucking organizations all have a vested interest in security.

Big Gain, Little Pain
Weak penalties, high profits make cargo theft more attractive than dealing in narcotics.

On a sunny September day near the notorious Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton, trucker Jerry Nadeau picked up a load of Left Bank designer shirts. The load’s value, an estimated $35,000 wholesale, was the furthest thing from his mind when he piloted his straight truck toward the Long Beach Freeway for a delivery across town.

As he headed up a freeway on-ramp, a car sped around the right side of his truck in the breakdown lane. It slammed on its brakes and blocked his path. Nadeau thought the driver and three passengers, who were climbing out of the vehicle, were upset because he had cut them off. As they approached his truck, Nadeau prepared for a fight, grabbing a tire iron.
Then he saw the .357 Magnum and knew something else was up. “A gun trumps a tire iron,” he says.

Of all the methods thieves use to steal cargo, hijacking represents the biggest risk to truckers. Hijackings are rare, though not as rare as most drivers think, because thieves would rather take the load when the driver’s not around, police say. While simple cargo theft carries little risk for the perpetrator, a thief who hijacks a truck can face hard time – as much as life in prison for kidnapping, theft and assault. Sometimes, however, criminals are willing to take the risk.

Two members of the gang climbed into Nadeau’s cab, forced him to the floor and tried to drive away. Nadeau was no longer thinking about how to fight, but how to survive.

“They threatened to kill me,” he says. “They were attempting to drive the truck but couldn’t figure it out.” Seeing an opportunity to gain points with his assailants, Nadeau volunteered to drive. With a gun in his ribs, he took the crooks 40 miles away to a deserted lot near the freeway. They threw him out, told him to stay there for an hour and said they would be watching him.

As the hijackers drove off in his truck, Nadeau looked around and sure enough, he saw a car near the freeway; the sun glinted off a high-powered rifle scope. Nadeau stayed put. Eventually, he walked away and called the police.

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