Thieves loot freight trains in Los Angeles with impunity

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Los Angeles (AFP) – Dozens of freight cars are broken into every day on Los Angeles railroads by thieves who take advantage of train stops to loot packages purchased online, leaving thousands of boxes and ripped open products that will never reach their destination. destination.

According to beacons found by an AFP team on Friday on a track near the city center – easily accessible from nearby streets – many major US mail order and courier companies like Amazon, Target, UPS and FedEx are affected. by the flights, which have exploded in recent months.

The thieves wait for the long freight trains to come to rest on the tracks, then climb onto the freight containers, whose locks they easily break with the help of bolt cutters.

They then use parcels, abandoning any products that are difficult to move or resell, or too cheap, such as Covid-19 test kits, furniture or medicine.

Rail operator Union Pacific has seen a 160% increase in flights in Los Angeles County since December 2020.

“For October 2021 alone, the increase was 356% compared to October 2020,” the UP said in a letter to local authorities, seen by AFP.

The explosion of looting has been accompanied by an upsurge in “assaults and armed robberies of UP employees carrying out their duties by moving trains”, the letter states.

An open box of unused Covid-19 tests is left on a section of Union Pacific railroad tracks littered with thousands of open boxes and stolen packages from freight shipping containers, targeted by thieves as trains stop in downtown Los Angeles Patrick T. FALLONAFP

The phenomenon peaked recently with the peak of activity linked to Christmas shopping.

According to figures reported by UP, more than 90 containers were vandalized each day on average in Los Angeles County during the last quarter of 2021.

To combat this trend, Union Pacific says it has increased surveillance measures — including drones and other detection systems — and recruited more security personnel for its lanes and convoys.

Police and security guards arrested more than 100 people in the last three months of 2021 for “trespassing and vandalizing” Union Pacific trains.

“While criminals are caught and arrested, charges are reduced to a misdemeanor or misdemeanor offense, and the person is back on the streets within 24 hours after paying a symbolic fine,” a doorman said. word of the railway operator.

“In fact, the criminals brag to our officers that there are no consequences,” he said.

Union Pacific wrote to the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office in late December asking it to reconsider a leniency policy introduced in late 2020 for such offenses.

A train carrying shipping containers passes through a section of Union Pacific railroad tracks littered with thousands of open boxes and stolen packages from cargo shipping containers on January 14, 2022
A train carrying shipping containers passes through a section of Union Pacific railroad tracks littered with thousands of open boxes and stolen packages from cargo shipping containers on January 14, 2022 Patrick T. FALLONAFP

The operator estimates that damage caused by such thefts in 2021 amounted to approximately $5 million, adding that the amount of claims and losses “does not include the respective losses of our affected customers” or the impact on Union Pacific operations and the entire Los Angeles County supply chain. .