Sunday, May 22

Freight car looting explodes in Los Angeles

Cardboard boxes stolen from freight cars and left on a Los Angeles train track, January 14, 2022Patrick T. FALLON

Dozens of freight cars are broken into every day in Los Angeles by thieves who take advantage of their stop to loot the packages they carry, leaving thousands of ripped boxes and products bought on the internet that will never arrive. to destination.

According to tags found Friday by an AFP team on a lane near the city center, easily accessible from nearby streets, most major U.S. mail order and courier companies (Amazon, Target, UPS, Fedex, etc.) were concerned by these thefts which have exploded for a few months.

The thieves take advantage of the long railway convoys being immobilized on the tracks to climb onto the freight containers, whose locks they easily break with the help of pliers. They then only have to help themselves in parcels, leaving behind many products that are difficult to resell or too cheap, such as tests for the Covid, furniture or medicines.

Since December 2020, rail operator Union Pacific (UP) has seen a 160% increase in flights in Los Angeles County. “In October 2021 alone, the increase reached 356% compared to October 2020,” said the operator in a letter to local authorities sent to AFP.

This explosion of looting is accompanied by an upsurge in “assaults and armed robberies targeting Union Pacific employees”, adds this letter.

The phenomenon has taken off again with the peak of activity linked to Christmas shopping. According to figures reported by UP, more than 90 containers were vandalized on average each day in Los Angeles County in the last quarter of 2021.

To stem the phenomenon, Union Pacific says it has strengthened surveillance measures (drones, detection systems, etc.) and recruited more police to protect its tracks and convoys.

Along with Los Angeles City and County police, more than 100 people have been arrested in the last three months of 2021 for “vandalizing” Union Pacific trains.

“The criminals are apprehended and arrested but the charges are reduced to mere offenses or misdemeanors, and the individual ends up on the streets less than 24 hours after paying a symbolic fine,” a door-keeper told AFP. word of the rail carrier.

“In reality, criminals brag to our police that they do not suffer any consequences,” she laments.

Union Pacific wrote to the Los Angeles County prosecutor at the end of December to alert him to the situation and ask him to reconsider the leniency policy he introduced at the end of 2020 for this type of offense.

The operator figures the cost of these damages for the year 2021 at around five million dollars “and this amount does not take into account the losses of our customers affected (by these thefts, editor’s note)” nor the impact on activities. Union Pacific and the entire Los Angeles County supply chain.

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