Union Pacific has made over 100 arrests in the last three months, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Amazon, UPS and FedEx packages stolen off freights

Railroad crimes in Los Angeles have increased during the pandemic; Union Pacific blames District Attorney George Gascón.

In January, packages from Amazon, UPS and FedEx were found on the side of railroad tracks in Los Angeles, California. Thousands of packages were rifled through, looted and abandoned. Shipments were in transit to recipients across the country. Similar incidents have been reported since November 2021.

Items found in the remaining boxes included family photos and belongings, clothes, shoes, COVID-19 rapid tests, swabs and personal protective equipment. Pricier goods found among the debris were medications costing up to $6,000.

Union Pacific, one of the largest railroad companies in the country, is considering avoiding operations in Los Angeles altogether with the recent spike in railroad thefts. In a letter to the Los Angeles District Attorney, Union Pacific said that it saw a 160% year-over-year increase in theft in the county. Union Pacific also claims that a special directive issued in December 2020 by District Attorney George Gascón has contributed to the increase in railroad crimes. The directive changed how low-level offenses are prosecuted.

The uptick in crime in Los Angeles is associated with poverty, which has increased due to the pandemic. Gascón’s directive was intended to curb misdemeanor convictions which can cause difficulties with employment, education, government benefits, housing and immigration. “Studies show that prosecution of the offenses driving the bulk of misdemeanor cases have minimal, or even negative, long-term impacts on public safety,” Gascón said when the directive was issued.

Union Pacific said it made over 100 arrests of “active criminals vandalizing our trains” in the last three months. “Union Pacific is very concerned about the increased cargo thefts in California, and we have taken several steps to address this criminal activity,” Union Pacific said in a statement. In addition to their partnership with the county’s police department and sheriff department, Union Pacific has its own police department to protect the 32,000 miles of railroad tracks it owns. Despite expanding security and close partnership with Los Angeles law enforcement, the railroad crimes persist. Individuals suspected and involved in lifting packages off the cargo trains are sometimes released from custody within 24 hours of arrest.

“Our office is committed to working with law enforcement to ensure collective safety across Los Angeles County’s sprawling infrastructure, whether it’s at our ports or on railroad tracks,” Alex Bastian, Special Advisor to District Attorney Gascón said when reached for comment. “Some cases presented to our office by Union Pacific have been filed, such as burglary and grand theft, while others have been declined due to insufficient evidence. We make charging decisions based on the evidence. Our office takes Union Pacific’s concerns seriously and hopes to discuss this issue more in the coming weeks,” he added.

However, Union Pacific said it has not been contacted for any court proceedings. The railroad company said in the letter that it understands the social justice goals of Gascón’s policy, but it wants to hold looters accountable and protect its employees. “These rail crimes pose a serious safety threat to the public, our employees and local law enforcement officers,” Union Pacific said in a statement.

Post Author: Shelby Hiens