Railway thefts have increased in Los Angeles County, with thieves climbing aboard freight trains, breaking into containers and stealing packages, Union Pacific Railroad warned Sunday.
Union Pacific said it has seen rail thefts increase by 160% in the county over the past year.
And it’s been more of an issue over the past three months – including through the busy holiday season – where more than 90 containers were compromised on average each day, the company said.
The thefts have left rails filled with debris from packages and goods destined to arrive at warehousing facilities around the United States
Saturday afternoon, several cars derailed by a Union Pacific train in a Lincoln Heights area where packages were left covering the rails.
While the cause of the derailment is still under investigation, the incident brought more attention to the littered rails.
The railroad mobilized “an aggressive response” to the thefts, with several officers assigned to commonly targeted locations and drones monitoring the tracks, Union Pacific said.
Workers who need to clean up the tracks told KTLA that the thefts took place in broad daylight.
“It does not matter what time it is. It may be a bright day and they just do not care,” Union Pacific subcontractor Louis Barosas said of the thieves as crews worked on the derailment site.
Union Pacific said its agents detained hundreds in connection with the thefts, but fewer than half were booked and some were released in less than 24 hours.
The company sent a letter to LA County District Attorney George Gascón, who called for action to address “the spiraling crisis of organized and opportunistic criminal rail theft.”
“Even with all the arrests that have been made, the policy of no cash bail and the extended time frame for suspects to appear in court causes the same criminals to be made the victim of the UP,” the letter reads.
Union Pacific said the detainees “boast to our officers that the charges will be relied on simply intrusion – which has no serious consequences.”
KTLA has approached the District Attorney’s Office for comment.
As a result of the thefts, Union Pacific has seen customers like UPS and FedEx try to redirect rail business to other areas and is now considering “serious changes” to its operating plans to avoid LA County, the letter reads.
“We are not taking this effort lightly, especially during the supply chain crisis, as this drastic change in our operations will create significant impacts and strains across local, state and national supply chain systems,” Union Pacific said.
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