cargo container express

Train Robberies

by Ann-Ghilianne Laguerre

cargo containers on train

Believe it or not, train robberies still happen. Much like their relative, a pirate attack, train robberies remain a lucrative crime for suspecting thieves as intermodal transport plays a vital role in logistics. And for the first time in a few decades, Americans are tuning in to logistics news. For the first time in a few generations, at least half the population even knows what the term “logistics” actually means. The rest of the news you hear about logistics is far from good, though, and lately, it’s gotten even worse. The latest story is about an intermodal train derailment of cargo containers.

Some Train Robberies are Easy Pickin’

Apparently, a train carrying cargo containers full of goodies derailed in the worst possible place that it could – in the middle of a high concentration of homeless people in downtown Los Angeles.  Once the rail workers were gone, thieves brought in bolt cutters and began opening up cargo containers, throwing out boxes, and pilfering all of the electronics and things they could easily sell on the Internet.

Once the good stuff was commandeered, the tracks were littered with empty boxes, alongside children’s toys, medical supplies, pet accessories, and miscellaneous items of value to anyone but small subsets of the population.

While to many, this looks like a random occurrence or just bad luck, the truth is that it is actually much more organized.

If ever there was an indication of how things are going in America, this is it.

The truth is that these cargo thefts are more likely organized train robberies, and this most recent act of breaking into cargo containers is only news now due to the overwhelming amount of media coverage that the global supply chain is getting overall.

The Ports

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together form America’s busiest shipping complex and serve as a key gateway for imported goods from Asia, have struggled with a significant backlog that’s left dockyards crowded with towering containers and dozens of ships at anchor waiting to unload.

And waiting by the fences for everyone to go home are thieves who are getting more organized at targeting, warehousing, and selling goods they’ve grabbed.

Luis Rosas, who makes about $20 an hour working for a company subcontracted by Union Pacific to salvage items from the tracks in the Los Angeles area, said thieves use bolt cutters to break the locks on the containers and load up vans or trucks with the stolen merchandise.  From there, the thieves take them to warehouses and storage units for processing and selling on the Internet, on (apparently) legitimate e-commerce websites.

freight transportation on train

Who is at Fault for These Train Robberies?

Union Pacific says criminal rail theft in LA has risen 160% since December 2020 and that $5 million worth of its own property has been stolen from its rail lines. Law enforcement and the company are finger-pointing at each other.

Union Pacific complained to the City of LA last month that police aren’t monitoring the railways and that prosecutors are letting people arrested in railcars off with misdemeanors.

The LA District Attorney shot back that criminal cases involving Union Pacific as a victim have fallen in the last two years from 78 to 47.

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,” LA DA George Gascó wrote to the company. “My Office is not tasked with keeping your sites secure.

The packages being stolen belong to multiple courier companies but are carried singularly on the railroad by Union Pacific, which operates in 23 states.

Record numbers of resignations have hit the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and COVID-19 has seen its staff numbers attired, but the department told the Wall Street Journal that Union Pacific’s problems were of its own making. The railway operator has downsized its security staff to six people, Police Capt. German Hurtado told WSJ and the LAPD, through its efforts, had arrested over 125 people since August.

With very little resistance, cargo thefts are highly likely to continue.

empty train tracks

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