Dr Pepper Thefts Are Probably a Local Job, Says One Cargo Theft Expert

If police have any new leads in that statewide run of Dr Pepper truck thefts, they're not saying much -- days of phone messages left with Fort Worth PD spokesmen and detectives have gone unanswered. (As if they've got more important things to do.)

I was, however, able to reach Sherman Police spokesman Sgt. Bruce Dawsey for a few more details on that first truck theft back in February. Says Daulty, the truck's dash had been busted open when they found it in Hurst, "most likely to access the ignition." Daulty also confirms the soda was missing from that truck as well -- putting the total damage at $100,000, if all five trucks were full when they were stolen.

Which, sure, sounds like a lot of soda, but former Dallas Police officer J.J. Coughlin says it happens all the time.

"People that aren't in this industry have no clue what a big issue this is, 'cause there's just tons of theft," says Coughlin, a consultant with the Southwest Transportation Security Council. He says one of the most popular targets is food and beverage -- because they're often less secure and easier to get rid of without having it tracked. "Thieves are smart, but they're also lazy," Coughlin says.

That's also why these Dr Pepper thieves could be going after one distributor after the next, Coughlin says.

"This is gonna be a local group, more likely. They're still thieves, and they still operate in an organized way," he says. Often, local thieves have hooked up with a fence who's interested in a particular product to re-sell.

Coughlin says the really well organized networks of cargo thieves nationwide tend to target high-dollar cargo.

Those are the groups mentioned in most stories about cargo theft, where someone like Coughlin, or an official from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, offers a quote about the professionalized cargo theft going on under the radar -- the dangers of stick-ups at drop yards for trailers and the way this sort of crime drives prices up.

Last week I linked to a 2009 Texas Tribune piece about the support in Austin for a statewide cargo theft task force. Texas is one of the country's leading states when it comes to cargo theft, the story said, but the only top state without a task force devoted to this kind of crime.

Lowell Cannaday, former candidate for Dallas County Sheriff and one of the retired cops who would've led the task force, says those talks ended up going nowhere.

"I had an awful lot of good philosophical support," Cannaday says, especially from State Sen. John Carona, but budget ties being what they are, nobody in Austin could dig up the money to get the task force rolling. "There' s a huge need. We're talking about multibillion dollars in the United Sates," Cannaday says. "It's something that effects all of us."

Without a statewide cargo theft network, its falls on the Waco and Fort Worth PD to work together to track the truck thieves. And it's up to individual bottling plants and truckers to prevent it in the future. In each of the cases so far, there's been no security camera footage to help police.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group spokesman Chris Barnes tells Unfair Park the delivery schedule and security is up to the local distributors -- though, of course, the corporate folks are watching. "We're certainly concerned that this happened," Barnes says before deadpanning, "We know people are fanatical about Dr Pepper, but this is a little extreme."