For the Union Pacific Railroad, LA now stands for “Loot Away.”
In an escalation of brazen train robberies the James Gang would envy, container trains passing through Los Angeles are being pilfered, with discarded UPS and Amazon boxes littering the tracks in one part of Los Angeles, according to KTLA-TV.
Rail thefts have increased 160 percent in Los Angeles County over the past year, and railroad officials say they believe there is a strong connection between the thefts and LA County District Attorney George Gascón’s policy of not prosecuting low-level crimes.
Responsibility for policing the railroad right of way falls on Union Pacific Police… not local agencies like LAPD. We did see Union Pacific police chasing two people today off the tracks and keeping an eye on things. pic.twitter.com/M5aQSrkGZW
— John Schreiber (@johnschreiber) January 14, 2022
“While rail theft is a national issue…it’s a state issue here in California. … The difference is how the criminal justice system and how local law enforcement hold these criminals accountable with legal consequences, and that is not the case in LA County,” Adrian Guerrero, Union Pacific’s director of public affairs for California, said, according to Fox News.
Union Pacific has increased its enforcement to stop package thefts.
“Union Pacific is very concerned about the increased cargo thefts in California, and we have taken several steps to address this criminal activity,” the company said in a statement. “These rail crimes pose a serious safety threat to the public, our employees and local law enforcement officers.”
The railroad said about 100 people were arrested for vandalizing trains last year during the holiday season.
As you can see, trains frequently slow or stop in this area as they get worked into the @UnionPacific Intermodal facility near Downtown LA. The thieves use this opportunity to break open containers and take what’s inside. I’d say every 4th or 5th rail car had opened containers. pic.twitter.com/PHpujyB84M
— John Schreiber (@johnschreiber) January 13, 2022
Keep hearing of train burglaries in LA on the scanner so went to #LincolnHeights to see it all. And… there’s looted packages as far as the eye can see. Amazon packages, @UPS boxes, unused Covid tests, fishing lures, epi pens. Cargo containers left busted open on trains. @CBSLA pic.twitter.com/JvNF4UVy2K
— John Schreiber (@johnschreiber) January 13, 2022
Guerrero said lack of action concerning the continued thefts is “incredibly disappointing and frustrating.”
“But that’s the reality of what Union Pacific has been facing over the past year, and it’s helping us shine a light on this issue. I think it’s a call to action for a number of stakeholders involved in this issue because…there are a number of folks being impacted by this,” he told Fox News.
In December 2021, Guerrero wrote Gascón to seek help.
“In several months during that period, the increase from the previous year surpassed 200%. In October 2021 alone, the increase was 356% over compared to October 2020,” the letter said. “Not only do these dramatic increases represent retail product thefts – they include increased assaults and armed robberies of UP employees performing their duties moving trains.”
Letter from @UnionPacific to @LADAOffice on rise in train robberies. 90 containers breached a day, theft up 356% says UP. UP considering rerouting it’s trains out of LA county. UP asks DA to be harder on theives. Says they’re back out on the tracks a day after released. @CBSLA pic.twitter.com/SRNFYkPtiq
— Kristine Lazar (@CBSLAKristine) January 14, 2022
“UP and our goods movement partners strongly urge you to reconsider the policies detailed in Special Directive 20-07. While we understand the well-intended social justice goals of the policy, we need our justice system to support our partnership efforts with local law enforcement, hold these criminals accountable, and most important, help protect our employees and the critical local and national rail network,” he said.
Guerrero estimated that Union Pacific has suffered $5 million in damage to its trains, and said the hike in rail thefts spiked when Gascon’s new prosecution directive was issued.
Alex Bastian, special adviser to Gascón, offered a statement that said the office was doing everything properly.
“Our office is committed to working with law enforcement to ensure collective safety across Los Angeles County’s sprawling infrastructure, whether it’s at our ports or on railroad tracks. Some cases presented to our office by Union Pacific have been filed, such as burglary and grand theft, while others have been declined due to insufficient evidence. We make charging decisions based on the evidence,” he said.
“Our office takes Union Pacific’s concerns seriously and hopes to discuss this issue more in the coming weeks,” Bastian said.
Amazon said that customers whose packages never arrive should make a report with customer service.
“Amazon will look into it, try to find a solution/track the package and/or reimburse the customer for their expenses,” Amazon said in a statement.
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