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Supply Chain News: Update! Los Angeles Cargo Theft Story Gaining Momentum, with Increasing War of Words



Has Organized Crime Moved In?

Jan. 25, 2022



The story of the cargo theft occurring on Union Pacific trains rolling into Los Angeles just keeps getting bigger.

As we first reported last week (see story below), local Los Angeles television stations have reported on thieves using bolt and other metal cutters to break into intermodal containers on trains slowing or stopped just east of the city as they approach the Union Pacific rail depot near downtown Los Angeles.

Not only have large quantities of goods been stolen, the activity has created a huge mess of trash on the tracks, as thieves and scavengers shred shipping cartons looking for attractive merchandise for resale or personal use.

Supply Chain Digest Says...


After inspecting the area, California Governor Gavin Newsom told reporters “The images looked like a Third World country. What you saw here in the last week is just not acceptable.”

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The story has gained momentum, appearing on a growing number of media outlets, as a war of words between Union Pacific and local officials broke out.

The rail carrier said it incurred $5 million in costs in 2021 related to the thefts, a figure that does not include losses incurred by Amazon, REI and many other shippers moving parcel via rail for local delivery by trucks in the metro area.

In the growing war of words, Adrian Guerrero, director of public affairs at Union Pacific, said a major contributor to the growing thefts is lenient prosecution. In a letter to the LA district attorney’s office, he said that a high percentage arrested for thievery have their charges reduced to a misdemeanor or petty offense, after which they are quickly released.

“We just don’t see the criminal justice system holding these people accountable,” Guerrero said.

In response via a letter sent last Friday to Guerrero, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón said his numbers told a different tale.

He stated the number of cases submitted to his office in which Union Pacific was cited as the victim has fallen each of the past two years, from 78 cases in 2019 to 47 in 2021. Gascón further said chargeswere filed in 55% of those cases. The charges dismissed were usually due to a lack of evidence or because they didn’t involve allegations of burglary, theft or tampering, meaning the accused was just ruffling through merchandise scattered on the track.

Taking a shot at Union Pacific, Gascón added that “It is very telling that other major railroad operations in the area are not facing the same level of theft at their facilities as UP. My office is not tasked with keeping your sites secure.”

Los Angeles Police Capt. German Hurtado further said that Union Pacific had downsized its own security force in 2020, so that there are now just six officers to cover its operations between the Pacific coast and Yuma, Arizona.

UP shot back that it has added dozens of agents in recent months to patrol in the Los Angeles, in addition to using drones, specialized fencing and trespass detection systems to combat the thievery.

After inspecting the area, California Governor Gavin Newsom told reporters “The images looked like a Third World country. What you saw here in the last week is just not acceptable.”

Experts note the sheer volume of containers moving into Southern California is a key factor. The resulting congestion can cause freight trains to stop moving, leaving them vulnerable to thieves.

“A train at rest is a train at risk,” Keith Lewis, vice president of operations for CargoNet, a company that tracks cargo thefts, told the Los Angeles Times.

Union Pacific also says that from lone local thieves , organized crime has now moved in on the action.

Potentially raising the ante in terms of seriousness, Union Pacific said a derailment occurred Saturday at the same location where thieves have been stealing the cargo. Could the mess on tracks have caused the accident? The Federal Railroad Administration is investigating.


Original Story (January 15, 2022:

If you live in the Los Angeles area and haven’t received a package you ordered from Amazon or some other on-line source, we may now have reason: brazen thieves opening intermodal containers as freight trains slow down as they approach LA depots.


CBS LA ran a video story last week showing a long stretch of train track covered with debris from shipping boxes and goods the thieves apparently had no interest in after the opened the parcels – that included unused COVID tests, fishing lures and epi pens that were seen scattered across the ground.

That stretch of train is in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles, used by rail carrier Union Pacific. We know the mess is fresh because Union Pacific had that track area cleaned just one month previous, and in a short time since the tracks have become a major mess, as seen in the frame capture below from the CBS affiliate that produced the piece last week.

Thefts occur when the trains are either stopped or slowing down as they approach the Union Pacific Intermodal facility in downtown LA. From there the parcels are moved to trucks and ultimately last mile delivery.

Thieves will often use bolt cutters to break the locks and gain access to the containers.

Reports of thieves on the tracks have become frequent in the last month, with people also seen digging through the debris searching for items of value, especially items that can be easily sold, usually for pennies on the dollar.

Union Pacific says it is taking matters into its own hands in an attempt to reduce the cargo thefts.




Source: CBS LA

(See More Below)





“Union Pacific is very concerned about the increased cargo thefts in California, and we have taken several steps to address this criminal activity,” the rail carrier said in a statement last week.

“These rail crimes pose a serious safety threat to the public, our employees and local law enforcement officers,” the statement added.

Union Pacific also said “We have increased the number of Union Pacific special agents on patrol, and we have utilized and explored additional technologies to help us combat this criminal activity,” adding finally that 'We also will continue to work with our local law enforcement partners and elected leaders.”

The scene was the same in November, when NBC Los Angeles had a similar video story that showed thousands of boxes discarded along the tracks lined with homeless encampments in the same Lincoln Heights area.

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