Following social media reports of widespread thefts of freight trains in Los Angeles, a CBS photojournalist decided to survey the situation for himself, capturing harrowing videos that quickly went viral on Thursday.
The footage, which shows thousands of stolen packages discarded at the side of the train tracks for an indefinite length, are the results of just a month’s haul of thefts. The situation has been reportedly ongoing for over a year.
“A section of the Union Pacific train tracks in downtown Los Angeles has been littered with thousands of shredded boxes, packages stolen from cargo containers that stop in the area to unload,” CBS Los Angeles reported. “Thieves have been raiding the cargo containers, taking packages that belong to people from all over the country from retailers like Amazon, REI and others.”
Sources informed CBS that the locks the train company uses to secure the tracks are easy to cut and local police do not respond to train robberies unless the company calls for their help. Officers responsible for the tracks’ security from Union Pacific are too few in number to deal with the length of track and the number of break-ins that occur.
“While CBSLA was on the scene with cameras, one person was seen running off with a container used to hold smaller packages, and a Union Pacific officer was spotted chasing after two other people who appeared to be rifling through packages,” the station added.
“A source with knowledge of the issue told CBSLA that Union Pacific cleaned up this area of tracks three months ago, and again only about 30 days ago, though the area is already littered with new discarded boxes.”
“Keep hearing of train burglaries in LA on the scanner so went to #LincolnHeights to see it all. And… there’s looted packages as far as the eye can see. Amazon packages, @UPS boxes, unused Covid tests, fishing lures, epi pens. Cargo containers left busted open on trains,” wrote John Schreiber, the photojournalist.
“I’m told by law enforcement these @UPS bags are especially sought after by thieves opening cargo containers… they are often full of boxes with merchandise bound for residential addresses. More valuable than say, a cargo container full of low value bulky items like toilet paper,” he wrote.
“As you can see, trains frequently slow or stop in this area as they get worked into the @UnionPacific Intermodal facility near Downtown LA. The thieves use this opportunity to break open containers and take what’s inside. I’d say every 4th or 5th rail car had opened containers,” Schreiber continued. “Missing a package? Shipment delayed? Maybe your package is among the thousands we found discarded along the tracks. This is but one area thieves have targeted trains. We were told this area was just cleaned up 30 days ago so what you see is all within the last month.”
“Responsibility for policing the railroad right of way falls on Union Pacific Police… not local agencies like LAPD,” concluded the photojournalist. “We did see Union Pacific police chasing two people today off the tracks and keeping an eye on things.”