Thieves target semi-trailer trucks and their contents
An organized group of truck thieves is targeting unoccupied semi-trailer trucks in Tampa Bay and selling the stolen goods across Florida, say Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputies.
"A whole trailer load of anything is worth something to somebody who doesn't have anything," said truck driver Chris Robinson.
Robinson drives 500 miles a day, but gets little rest, as he hauls around mulch, electronics and roofing supplies.
"It's hard for me to go to sleep if I know something is in the back. I wake up, constantly get up, check it," Robinson said.
Other truckers may soon have sleepless nights too, knowing that since the beginning of May, ten rigs and trailers have been hauled off by thieves targeting truck stops and businesses.
"It's very organized," said Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Detective Michael Miller.
The thieves spot an unoccupied truck, and take their chances on what's inside.
"They'll take $100,000 worth of tires, they'll take $80,000 worth of scrap metal," Miller said.
He also says they work in rings of five or six and can take a truck in under three minutes.
Each team member has a role, like spotter, lock-breaker, engine starter or driver.
"One guy is brought in as the CDL driver in case they get pulled over," said Miller. "He kind of looks legit."
Deputies say they're possibly selling the goods to a group of fencers that operates in Orlando and Miami.
"They have buyers willing to buy this stuff on the black market," said Miller.
Deputies have recovered several of the stolen trucks, and sometimes they're cleaned out.
They want truckers to be on alert, and smart about where they park and how they lock their trucks.
"I need to know if I am being watched," said truck driver Chris Robinson. "Anything can happen."
Deputies say the ring has even taken trucks that turned out to have nothing in them at all.
Deputies also say they have several leads, and believe that they'll eventually find the thieves.