I interviewed JJ Coughlin who discussed Public/Private Partnerships, Information Sharing, and Layered Security.
It’s great to speak with you today, JJ, and I’m looking forward to hearing your views on the topic of public-private partnerships, information sharing, and layered security. Before we start, can you provide a brief background of yourself?
Yes, Dustin, thanks for having me today. I appreciate you being interested in this topic. I was a Dallas police officer for 21 years, and I left that job in retirement and decided to try my hand in the transportation and logistics industry, so I worked for a full-service transportation and logistics provider as a regional transportation security manager in Texas, the four states around it, and also in Mexico for their full enterprise. About seven years ago, after using some products from Supply Chain Integrity, which is now LoJack Supply Chain, I started working with them more on the security and data push end of the business.
Thanks. Can you explain what a public-private partnership is regarding information sharing and security?
Sure. What I found, I think when I came into the industry is that before, when I was on the police department, I had worked my way up to where I had quite a few detectives who worked for me, a secretary, and everything else. When I left, I found that I had five states in Mexico to cover for a large enterprise. I started looking around, I’m just like Lone Ranger without a Tonto. I started looking and talking to some of my colleagues when I was new in the transportation industry, and I started learning about some of the ways regionally that people were communicating and networking with security managers of other companies and with law enforcement.
Over time, through the Southwest Transportation Security Council, which I formed along with five other ex-law enforcement officers who were in the industry, we started a communication system which started pretty much regionally and then has grown over the years to cover just about all of the U.S. and even into Canada and allows us to communicate with the industry folks and allows us to network with law enforcement to provide them training. We were kind of forced to do it, especially after 9/11. The FBI tended not to be real responsive to major theft as they were obviously working on other things, so we kind of had to build the system ourselves to deal with cargo theft, and most cargo thefts happen in one place and are immediately in another jurisdiction.
That’s kind of how it started, and then, over time, it’s grown just through getting regional participation in several different cargo councils that exist now. There are actually about eight of those that exist now, and we all communicate, share information, network with the police, and do two or three major conferences and trainings a year for law enforcement and the industry.
Why do we need this?
Well, the reason you need it is because when your truck gets stolen in Chicago and the freight all ends up in Miami, if you don’t know who to call, if you don’t know who works those cases, if you’re dialing 911, you’ll probably never get anything done. We need a network; we need a way to get past the in-the-box way of doing things. By doing this, it allows you to know whom to call when you have a problem and who works your issues and who will give you the best chance to recover. Obviously, when we start talking about the layered security part, we really want to do prevention way before we do response, but if something does go bump in the night, you need to have a way to respond and recover.
Can you talk about how this works a little bit, in more detail?
Sure. Really, it works through communication systems. The Southwest Transportation Security Council actually will put BOLOs and alters out, also along with a company, a group called CargoNet that collects that and puts out BOLOs and alerts. The Supply Chain Information Sharing Analysis collects a lot of that data, along with CargoNet. Through that, we’re able to actually study the crimes and make some determinations from that analysis about what they target, how they target it, what their methods of operations are, where the highest-risk areas in the U.S. and Canada are, and it just gives us a lot of knowledge so you don’t have to operate in a vacuum.
It’s really all about the sharing of intelligence and networking with police and networking with other industry folks who are involved in the security side of things. By doing all those things and having those contacts, you’re able to have a response-and-recovery system that actually works with people who actually work cargo. If you called most police departments cold, you probably couldn’t even find the guy who works the crime. Many times, it’s identifying the persons assigned to those kinds of crimes and then educating them, networking with them, and bringing them into the fold and communication system so that everybody’s on the same page and we know how to call, when to call, using the database.
A lot of times, when police do find a warehouse full of stolen goods, we can identify complainants for them and do a lot of good work for them and for the industry. Also, many times, by working together, it just makes it where not so many things fall through the cracks. You actually have an opportunity, even six months after a crime occurs, to recover because you have a way to communicate all that information through the group and through law enforcement to identify crimes, especially when a crime occurs in one state and the property ends up in another.
Just to recap, who would the end users be and maybe some of the other stakeholders for this system?
Most of the regional councils are staffed with the security management of folks from transportation and logistics companies, from insurance investigative groups that work cargo, and, a lot of times, even vendors who provide security products for that venue. Those people are the stakeholders * (8:15—audio cuts out) many times the ones who work cargo. There are eight cargo-theft task forces in the U.S. They’re not everywhere—they’re in a lot of the hot spots, but even a lot of the hot spots don’t have task forces.
The task force people are in, and then we identify, usually, commercial auto-theft folks or something like that in other places who are actually tasked with working a crime and then bringing them into the communication fold. It allows the public law enforcement types to seek information from the industry, which, a lot of times, is that connect-the-dot that you need in the communication side of things to know what’s missing, who’s missing it, where the actual crime occurred and all those things. It’s really just a large communication system that can be used by both the public and the private entities.
One more question I have is: How does layered security fit into this type of system in the overall big picture?
Really, Dustin, the way it fits in is by taking the intel that we establish through these databases and these BOLOs and alerts and all that information and by identifying how the criminals that—especially the organized criminals—that prey on the industry, identify how they operate, what they target, where they operate; then we’re able to provide that information to the operators in the industry. Based on that information, they’re able to, based on the commodities they’re carrying and some other things, they’re able to realize if they’re going to operate in a certain area, carrying a certain commodity, what kind of security they need. That security could be covert cargo tracking in the trailer; it could be locking devices; it could be team drives; it can be a lot of things.
The way it really works by all of the industry exchange and the public-private partnership and exchange of information, it allows a person who’s aware of the risks to operate in a safe manner using a layered protection system so that they’re not victimized. Actually, most people who understand the risk and put in the right protections usually aren’t victimized.
About JJ Coughlin
Vice President - LoJack Supply Chain Integrity/Chairman - Southwest Transportation Security Council