08/26/2007

CHP targets cargo theft

By Angela Woodall
Inside Bay Area

OAKLAND, Calif. Authorities seek help in identifying a suspected member of a cargo theft ring believed to be responsible for at least $150,000 in grab-and-go cargo heists around the Bay Area.

The crew of six possibly Hispanic males targets unattended delivery trucks carrying high-end garments, jewelry, purses and other apparel items to Bay Area shopping malls, according to investigators with the California Highway Patrol Cargo Theft Interdiction Program.

CHP Friday released video surveillance from January, when an investigation of the group began, showing a man about 30 to 40 years old with shaved head following a driver into a South Bay shopping mall, where the driver was delivering goods to a store.

The man, investigators said, has been present during several heists.

He is shown using his cell phone to call accomplices waiting outside.

Cargo theft accounts for at least

$45 billion in losses annually throughout the United States, said CHP spokesman Trent Cross.

"It is a huge problem in California and nationwide," Cross said.

The crew that has struck as many as a dozen times in the East and South Bay, Tri-Valley area and Sacramento wait for delivery drivers to leave their trucks, then break into the trucks and carry the goods to a waiting get-away vehicle, said an investigator with the CHP cargo theft unit, Mark Locey.

The whole operation takes about three minutes, Locey said.

He advised drivers to be alert and call local authorities if they suspect someone is following them.

"Cargo theft is a nonviolent crime, but you never know," he added.

The merchandise may be sold at flea markets, corner stores or filtered through illicit distributors, Locey said.

The crew, however, does not appear to be part of a larger cargo theft ring, according to Locey.

If arrested, the thieves could face cargo theft charges, Locey said.

The unit hasn't recovered any of the stolen goods so far and there have been no arrests, he said.

But the odds would improve greatly if they are able to identify the man in the surveillance video, he added.

Anyone with information about the identity of the man or others involved in the cargo thefts is encouraged to contact the CHP Cargo Theft Unit at (510) 622-4625.

Copyright 2007 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers

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