Chronic theft plagues rail freight containers in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES — Thieves have looted freight containers on trains near downtown Los Angeles for months, taking packages addressed to people across the United States and leaving the tracks covered in discarded boxes.
The packages come from retailers including Amazon, REI and others, CBSLA reported. The sea of debris left behind includes items the thieves apparently didn’t think were worth enough to take away.
While television station cameras were on the scene, a person was seen running away with a container used to hold small packages, and a Union Pacific Railroad police officer was spotted chasing two other people who were apparently browsing through packages.
Crews were forced to repair the railway on Monday after a train derailed near the site of the chronic thefts.
It was not immediately clear whether Saturday’s derailment was caused by debris left behind by thieves,
The chaotic scene was the same in November, when NBC4 showed thousands of boxes thrown along lanes lined with homeless encampments northeast of downtown in the Lincoln Park area.
Passing trains carried containers with doors wide open and falling packages, NBC4 reported. Video showed two men, one holding what looked like bolt cutters, walking along the tracks, the station said.
Union Pacific said in a statement that the railroad is concerned about the increase in cargo flights in California.
“We have increased the number of Union Pacific Special Agents on patrol, and we have used and explored additional technologies to help us combat this criminal activity. We will also continue to work with our local law enforcement partners and elected leaders,” the railroad said.
Amazon said it is directing investigations to the police. United Parcel Service, UPS, declined to comment on cargo theft investigations, but said it was cooperating with authorities.
“The safety of our customers’ and employees’ assets is our top priority,” UPS said in a statement.
Luis Rosas, who earns about $20 an hour working for a company contracted by Union Pacific to recover items from Los Angeles-area lanes, says he’s seen the brazen thieves in action before. Using bolt cutters, they break container locks and load vans or trucks with the stolen goods.
Rosas has been doing this job almost daily for about six months and despite being told not to engage in confrontations, he is still scared.
“They don’t even run away anymore. They do it right in front of us,” he told The Associated Press on Friday, wearing a bright yellow vest before heading to work picking up car tires along the tracks. “At first I was shocked. I was amazed.