Forensic characteristics of cargo theft in railway transport

UDC 343.98
Publication date: 21.06.2024
International Journal of Professional Science №6-1-2024

Forensic characteristics of cargo theft in railway transport

Brager Dmitry Konstantinovich,
Roslaya Valeria Alexandrovna,
To Kyung Sik,
Udod Anna Dmitrievna,

1. Candidate of Legal Sciences, Associate Professor,
Far Eastern State Transport University
2. Senior Lecturer,
Far Eastern State Transport University
3. Doctor of Economic Sciences,
Far Eastern State Transport University
4. student,
Far Eastern State Transport University
Abstract: The subject of criminal offenses in theft of cargo on railway transport are cargo transported in tanks, containerized cargo, bulk cargo transported without packaging in gondola cars and on open platforms, piece cargo, luggage and postal items of citizens transported in special type cars. The object of the study is criminal activity in the field of cargo theft on railway transport. The objectives of the study are to: consider the main elements of forensic characteristics and circumstances to be established during the investigation of cargo thefts. The author believes that it is important to carry out further research and activities to improve security and prevent cargo theft in railway transport.
Keywords: forensic characteristics, cargo theft, railway transport, crime, investigation methods, identity of the criminal, rolling stock.

Theft of other people’s property is one of the most common crimes. In our article we consider the forensic characteristics of cargo theft on railway transport. Railway transport services in the Russian Federation are one of the most important industries that significantly influences the economic development of Russia. Its main purpose is timely and high-quality support for the needs of citizens and individuals in transport, promoting the development of the economic system today. Theft of cargo by rail remains a serious threat to the country’s economy, as it leads to significant material losses for business and the state.

One of the main elements of forensic characteristics in the investigation of cargo theft on railway transport is the method of committing the crime. This method helps investigative authorities determine the profile of the criminal, based on his methods of action and the characteristics of the crime itself. If the theft of cargo is committed by opening the doors of a carriage or entering a train, then most often this indicates the professionalism and certain skills of the criminals [1]. In this case, the investigation can expect that the offender has some experience in the field of crime, and may also have connections with larger criminal groups [1]. It is the knowledge of the specifics of the method of committing a crime that simplifies the process of solving a crime, as this helps to determine possible storage locations for stolen cargo [1]. This will also make it possible to most correctly determine in which direction the investigation should be conducted, build reasonable investigative leads and calculate all available forces and means.

Criminals can use various methods and techniques to access and steal cargo [2]. The most common methods include:

  1. Direct access to the cargo. When criminals may gain access to cargo if it has not been properly secured or secured;
  2. Hacking. It involves the use of tools or techniques to break through locking devices or obstacles.
  3. Overcoming locked devices without breaking. When criminals use unconventional methods or knowledge of security weaknesses to gain access to cargo;
  4. Use of a damaged carriage. This method is used in cases where the condition of the car is damaged for access to the cargo;
  5. Violation of the rules of the cargo transportation process. It involves the participation of insiders or railway company employees who use their position to access or steal cargo [2].

Understanding the different ways rail freight theft occurs helps law enforcement agencies develop appropriate methods to prevent and investigate such crimes.

The objects of criminal attacks during cargo theft on railway transport are most often valuable and in-demand goods [4]. Among them may be:

  • Industrial and food products;
  • Construction Materials;
  • Petroleum products;
  • Auto parts and other goods [4].

Criminals target these types of cargo for theft because they can be sold on the secondary market for high profits. For example, food products or petroleum products, construction materials and auto parts are in demand, and their theft can bring good profits [4].

The next important element of the forensic characteristics of the theft of cargo from railway rolling stock is the situation in which the crime was committed, where and when the act was committed [2]. Understanding the location and time of a crime helps law enforcement agencies draw conclusions about possible circumstances and methods of theft, as well as identify possible suspects [2]. As indicated, cargo thefts can occur at various sections of the railway track, such as intermediate reorganization stations, sections of hauls and posts, loading stations, departure and arrival stations, and others [3]. To establish the possible location of a crime along the train route, it is necessary to conduct a detailed investigation and use various techniques.

Analysis of the personality characteristics of criminals who commit cargo theft is one of the important elements of the forensic characterization of such crimes. There is a certain profile of criminals who most often commit thefts of cargo from railway rolling stock [5]. According to research, most cargo thefts are committed by men, and the percentage of female criminals is small; The main age category of criminals who commit cargo theft is in the range from 18 to 30 years [5]. This is due to higher levels of activity and risk taking at this age; Cargo theft is often committed by employees of railway enterprises who have access to cargo, know train traffic patterns and know weak points in the security system. Moreover, such criminals can unite in groups to commit crimes together.

At the present stage, the process of most freight and marshalling stations is designed in such a way that various services simultaneously participate in the processing of rolling stock. In such conditions, it is very difficult for one to steal cargo at a large station. It is also problematic to steal cargo alone, since the tools used to carry out break-ins, cuts and breaks are quite large [5]. Therefore, information about the commission of such a crime by a group of persons is important in the forensic characterization of the theft of cargo from railway rolling stock. It was found that cargo thefts were committed by groups in 74% of cases. And the remaining 26% committed the crime alone [5].

Groups of criminals specializing in cargo theft can be classified according to the degree of criminalization and organization. Among them are:

  1. Random crime groups: These can be small groups of criminals who randomly band together to commit cargo thefts. They may act without planning or coordination;
  2. Simple criminal groups: These are groups of criminals that have some degree of planning and coordination. They may be more organized and have a certain structure;
  3. Organized crime groups: these are highly organized and criminalized groups that specialize in committing cargo thefts. They may have a clear hierarchy, special training to commit crimes, and resources to carry out operations [2].

The personality characteristics of criminals who commit cargo thefts allow us to distinguish two main groups: persons working at railway enterprises and persons who have no connection with the railway complex [2].

According to the GIAC of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, in 2014, 3974 cargo thefts were registered, in 2015 – 3331, in 2016 – 2452, and in 2017 – 2561 [5]. This study shows that it is necessary to find new ways and mechanisms to preserve goods transported by rail. Thus, we came to the conclusion that the analysis of the forensic characteristics of the theft of cargo from railway transport is an important aspect of identifying the forensic characteristics that we carried out. It will make it possible in the future to reasonably put forward versions in the face of insufficient information and plan investigations and build a program of action for the investigation.


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