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Cargo Theft Costing Consumers and Businesses Billions

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PHILADELPHIA -

When driving down the highway, you probably wouldn't even notice a tractor trailer riding beside you. That trailer has the potential of being filled with stolen cargo headed for the black market entrepreneurs who can peddle it nearly anywhere.

These trucks might contain entire cargo shipments, ripped off nationwide by skilled thieves who can make a truckload of valuable cargo disappear in seconds. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are their two favorite targets.

The State Police say that cargo thieves can steal just about anything, from expensive women's handbags to perfume, electronics, valuable metals, food and beverages.

George Giles heads the New Jersey State Police Cargo Theft Unit, an elite squad of highly trained and very successful detectives.

"These guys aren't playing around; they are definitely professionals." Giles said.

This isn't a cheap operation either. The job is a million-dollar-job. The crew doesn't just operate in New Jersey, but throughout the Nation. Troopers and truckers say that truckloads of merchandise get stolen every day. Truckers leave their cargo behind for a minute, and they are soon questioning its new location.

"You stop for a cup of coffee or something like that, they break a window, jump in your truck and take the whole truck with the load," Giles said.

There's also the fictitious pick up to look out for. This occurs when thieves are able to track a truck loaded with expensive merchandise on the Internet or have inside information. They go to the warehouse where the merchandise is stored, posing as the trucking company that's supposed to pick it up. Video captured shows one such fictitious pick up in action. The scammers even had phony signs on the truck that matched the real decal. They changed it back quickly after the steal.

The New Jersey Police say that these cargo thieves are high tech too. They know that many truck drivers use GPS systems, so they often take counter measures.

"If the cargo thieves steal the trailer [and] clicks on the GPS jammer, that vehicle disappears from that company's screen," said Giles.

And truckers aren't just worried about having their GPS altered. Thieves even have keys made that can actually open certain tractors and start them up.

Efraim Melendez runs a trucking company out of Camden, and he works hard hauling all kinds of merchandise across the country. He admits that truckers are constantly worried.

"It's getting real bad. It's getting to the point near the Holidays that everybody needs to be real careful." Melendez said.

Another recovered video shows a New Jersey warehouse filled with millions of dollars' worth of stolen copper. There are also food products that could be spoiled, meats, cheeses, you name it. This is putting the public at risk as well.

"The consumer is the one who pays everything at the end of the day." Melendez said.

With over 1,200 cargo thefts nationwide last year, troopers say that trucking companies are reluctant to report many of these crimes, so chances are it's a bigger problem than gets reported.

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