Rail Theft in Los Angeles Leaves Tracks Covered in Empty Packages

Written by Bobbie Wylie

Rail theft in Los Angeles County is at an all-time high. Thieves are climbing aboard cargo trains and breaking into containers to steal packages.

Railroad robberies may sound like a crime that only occurred in the days of bandits mounted on horseback, but the modern rise of e-commerce means that thieves know there is an increased likelihood of high-value items on cargo trains. 

On Saturday, approximately 17 cars on a Union Pacific train derailed in “the same area where the vandalism has been occurring,” according to a spokesperson from Union Pacific, adding that the crew was not hurt and the case is under investigation. Last week, footage was circulated of the extent of train robberies and the footage showed a massive amount of opened packages littered onto the tracks. 

Union Pacific reported a 160% increase in thefts along the railroad in Los Angeles County since December 2020. While Union Pacific did not release specific data, they reported the increase in crime cost the company at least $5 million last year.

Adrian Guerrero, the director of public affairs for Union Pacific estimates around 90 cargo containers a day are compromised. “Organized and opportunistic criminal rail theft … impacts our employees, our customers in the overall supply chain industry,” said Guerrero.

The effects of these railroad thefts are seen along the tracks in Los Angeles County. On Saturday, torn plastic wrappers, cardboard boxes, and various other packaging items were seen along the railroad tracks in Lincoln Heights. Several people sorted through the debris hoping to find valuable items such as electronics or designer clothing.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office stated that they had filed charges in some of the burglary and grand theft cases, but many cases did not have enough evidence to prosecute. Union Pacific has reported they are deploying more drones, have brought in extra security, and have contacted local police agencies for help thwarting railroad thefts.

Union Pacific has reportedly become extremely frustrated at the problems in Los Angeles. Not only are they angered at the rise in crime but the supply chain crisis as well. Trains have sat motionless for weeks as they wait for space to open open in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The situation has gotten so bad that they are considering a change in operations to avoid Los Angeles County.

Photo Cred: James Kim/ Forbes