On the Los Angeles railroads, dozens of freight cars are broken into every day by thieves who take advantage of train stops to loot packages purchased online, leaving thousands of stripped boxes and products that will never reach their destination.
According to tags found Friday by an AFP team on a trail near the city center — which was easily accessible from nearby streets — many major U.S. mail order and courier companies such as Amazon, Target, UPS and FedEx are affected by the thefts. , which have exploded in recent months.
The thieves wait for the long freight trains to be immobilized on the tracks and then climb onto the freight containers, the locks of which they can easily break with the help of bolt cutters.
They then help themselves pack packages and drop products that are difficult to move or re-sell, or that are too cheap, such as Covid-19 test kits, furniture, or medicines.
Railroad operator Union Pacific has seen a 160 percent increase in thefts in the province of Los Angeles since December 2020.
“In October 2021 alone, the increase was 356 percent compared to October 2020,” UP said in a letter to local authorities, seen by AFP.
The explosion of looting was accompanied by an increase in “attacks and armed robberies against UP employees performing their duties to run trains,” the letter said.
The phenomenon peaked recently with the peak of activity related to Christmas shopping.
According to UP figures, an average of more than 90 containers per day were destroyed in Los Angeles County in the last quarter of 2021.
To counter the trend, Union Pacific says it has tightened surveillance measures, including drones and other detection systems, and recruited more security personnel to its tracks and convoys.
Police and security officers have arrested more than 100 people in the final three months of 2021 for “penetrating and vandalizing” Union Pacific trains.
“While criminals are caught and arrested, the charge is reduced to a felony or minor offense and the person is back on the street within 24 hours after paying a nominal fine,” a spokesperson for the railway company said.
“Basically, criminals brag to our officers that there are no consequences,” he said.
Union Pacific wrote to the Los Angeles County law firm in late December asking it to reconsider a leniency policy introduced in late 2020 for such offenses.
The operator estimates damages from such thefts were approximately $5 million in 2021, adding that the amount of claims and losses “excluding the respective losses to our affected customers” or the impact on Union Pacific’s business and the entire supply chain of Los Angeles County .
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