By CNN 9:28am Jan 17, 2022
Photos and videos showing piles of empty boxes littered alongside rail tracks in Los Angeles County, California have gone viral as shipping companies say they’ve seen a dramatic spike in railroad theft. Some of the boxes are packages from companies like UPS, Amazon and FedEx.Union Pacific, one of the country’s largest railroad companies, says it may avoid operating in Los Angeles County following the spike in thefts, which it blames on lax prosecution of crimes. The containers and trains are locked, but can be broken into.Union Pacific said last month in a letter to the Los Angeles District Attorney that it saw a 160 per cent year-over-year increase in theft in LA county. The company claims that a December 2020 special directive issued by District Attorney George Gascón that changed how low-level offences are prosecuted has contributed to the uptick.
Union Pacific said in its letter that in the last three months of the year it made over 100 arrests of “active criminals vandalising our trains” in partnership with the LA police department and Los Angeles Sherriff department.
But Union Pacific, which has its own police department with jurisdiction over the 32,000 miles of tracks it owns, said that even as it has expanded its security resources and partnered more closely with local law enforcement, the problem isn’t going away. After being arrested individuals are released from custody within 24 hours, it said.
Crime is associated with increases in poverty, which has increased during the pandemic. The county’s directive was intended to combat social ills that come from misdemeanour convictions, such as difficulties with employment, housing, education, government benefits and immigration.