Cargo train thefts see 160% spike in Los Angeles, says top US railroad company
In a bizarre development, rail thefts have witnessed an unprecedented surge in Los Angeles County, with thieves climbing cargo trains, breaking into containers and stealing packages, according to reports.
Union Pacific, a freight-hauling railroad that operates in 23 US states, in a statement on Sunday said it had seen rail thefts increase by 160% in the county over the past year.
According to a report by AFP, many major US mail order and courier companies such as Amazon, Target, UPS and FedEx are being hit by the thefts.
The problem has assumed alarming proportions in the past three months with more than 90 containers targeted on an average every day, the company said.
The phenomenon exploded recently with the peak of activity linked to Christmas and New Year shopping.
The thieves have left railway lines littered with debris from merchandise that was supposed to arrive at warehouse facilities around the country, as seen in photos and videos.
On Saturday afternoon, a number of cars belonging to the Union Pacific train derailed in a Lincoln Heights area where packages were thrown on the tracks.
While the cause of the derailment is currently being investigated, the incident has brought into focus many problems posed by littered rails.
Union Pacific said the railroad had mobilized “an aggressive response” to the thefts, with deployment of more officers in areas mostly targeted by thieves as well as drones surveilling the tracks.
“Doesn’t matter what time it is. It could be broad daylight and they just don’t care,” Union Pacific subcontractor Louis Barosas was quoted as saying.
The company said its agents had detained hundreds of suspects over the thefts, but very few were booked and some were released in less than 24 hours.