ATLANTA (WSB-TV) -- The FBI approximates that about $30 billion worth of goods are stolen from tractor-trailers every year nationwide.
It’s a crime that cost consumers thousands of dollars every year, and Georgia is the only state in the country that has a statewide law enforcement unit dedicated to the problem. Georgia is consistently ranked in the top five states for cargo theft because of the interstate system and Savannah Port.
"It's hard for people to understand they are paying an extra $5 here an extra $10 there because of what's been going on," said Ed Crowell, of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association.
Crowell said Georgia is one of the worst states in the nation for cargo theft.
"There are a lot of high-value things that move through here. All of that makes it a great target for thieves," he said.
Late last year, thieves stole more than 100 rifles off a cargo container on a train. Cargo thieves are becoming more sophisticated, working in groups, even tracking loads they want to hit across state lines.
"This is, in some cases, is getting to that level of Prohibition-era mobsters. These are organized groups," said Crowell.
That was part of the reason why former Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Georgia Motor Trucking Association moved to create the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Major Theft Unit, the only statewide group tasked with cracking down on cargo heists.
"See these things on the ground here, these are seals that are put on the back of trailers at the distribution centers, and they are not supposed to be removed until they've reached their destination," said John Cannon, head of the GBI's Major Theft Unit.
Channel 2's Shae Rozzi rode along with the unit as they showed her some of the hot spots across metro Atlanta for cargo theft. Keith Lewis, of CargoNet, showed Rozzi some of the seals that were ripped off the back of tractor-trailers.
Lewis is a former GBI agent and now works as the vice president of Operations for CargoNet, a private company that tracks cargo thefts across North America.
Cannon told Rozzi that thieves will often steal an entire trailer load worth of goods, then try to sell it on the black market or through legitimate outlets. The GBI has even recovered goods off home shopping networks.
"We've recovered items off Amazon, Craigslist. Recently, we worked a case that involved QVC," said Cannon.
Cannon showed Channel 2 pictures of some of the items they have recovered, including clothing, electronics, appliances and food, which could have made people sick.
"We've seen frozen chicken stolen, frozen lamb, and this stuff is not kept at the temperatures it needs to be kept at by the thieves, and when they go out and try to sell it, it's been sitting for several days," said Cannon.
The GBI recovered a U-Haul load of frozen chicken that one man was trying to resell.
"It's a pay-at-the-pump type of impact to the consumer. The true victim is you and I when we go to the grocery store to buy products. We are paying for the cost of cargo theft in the cost of goods," said Lewis.
The GBI's Major Theft Unit has been in place since 2009 and has recovered over $30 million in stolen goods. The Georgia Motor Trucking Association said since the unit's implementation, they've noticed some groups of criminals have decided to move their operations outside of Georgia.