The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved bipartisan legislation today aimed at cracking down on cargo theft in New Jersey, where the crime is a serious and growing problem. The measure, named in memory of a founding member of the State Police Cargo Theft Unit, is sponsored by Assembly Republican Conference Leader Dave Rible, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, and 18 other Assembly Republicans. “Roughly $1 billion worth of goods every year is stolen from New Jersey before it is delivered,” Rible, R-Monmouth and Ocean, said. “That is a devastating loss to the economy that increases the prices we pay in stores for clothing, food, pharmaceuticals and any product that is shipped in New Jersey. It’s time to fight back against cargo theft to protect businesses and consumers.” Cargo theft increased 147 percent in New Jersey from 2009 to 2010, making it a state to watch according to a survey by FreightWatch International, a Texas-based logistics security provider. Hudson and Middlesex counties rank among the top ten risk zones in the country for cargo theft . Law enforcement estimate thieves steal between $700 million and $1 billion worth of cargo every year in New Jersey, particularly in the North Jersey by Port Elizabeth and Port Newark . The legislation, A-3003, is named after Lt. Lt. Scott Jenkins, who died of cancer in 2003. He was a founding member of the State Police Cargo Theft Unit and helped it grow into a national model of efficiency in the war on the lucrative cargo theft trade. “Without stronger deterrents, thieves will continue to roll off with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cargo,” Rible, a retired police officer, said. “Cargo theft has become a very sophisticated and profitable operation for organized crime. We will make sure the risks are not worth the reward of this criminal endeavor in the name of Lt. Jenkins, who was a leader in fighting cargo theft in New Jersey.” The bill would create specific provisions for theft of a cargo carrier including: • Fines of $250,000 for a second-degree crime, $500,000 for a first-degree offense or five times the value of property seized – whichever is greater. • Mandatory imprisonment of at least 120 days for a second offense, or 270 days for third or more offenses. Those terms would double if the crime involved a weapon.