People stealing off of freights in Los Angeles

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Cal

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The whole just shows the lack of security in the railroad business. Trains are often sitting around for hours in an unsecured location. If a high value intermodal train is stopped somewhere you would think a railroad police car could be sent to the scene. If might be enough to discourage any problems. At least if a raid takes place the railroad police officer could notify local police.
UP seems particularly lacking in security in the L.A. area. Have you ever seen photos of locomotives used on locals in L.A.? They are covered in graffiti! You would think the railroad would care about people painting over their locomotives! It's a wonder the locomotives aren't stripped for parts. Why would UP leave locomotives unguarded overnight?
As far as blaming the homeless for this, I doubt if homeless people would be organized enough for such an activity. It's more likely criminal gangs like the ones that invade high-price stores.
Aren't yards already fairly well-protected? And that's where most engines are. I feel that if the current vandalism isn't really much of a problem, there's no need to have officers sitting at every single siding where an engine happens to be -- which is probably too much anyway.
 

flitcraft

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On the Criminal Law professor's listserv, this letter from UP on the situation was reproduced--it has apparently been widely disseminated by UP. Obviously this is from UP's perspective, but given this thread, I thought I would copy it here:

December 20, 2021



Honorable George Gascón

Los Angeles County District Attorney District Attorney’s Office

211 West Temple Street Suite 1200

Los Angeles, CA 90012



Re: Union Pacific Railroad Train Thefts and Safety Concerns

Dear District Attorney Gascón,

On behalf of Union Pacific Railroad (UP) and our 1,600 employees covering 275 miles of track at our nine rail facilities throughout Los Angeles County, I am reaching out to request your leadership, attention, and immediate action to the spiraling crisis of organized and opportunistic criminal rail theft that is impacting our employees, customers and supply chain industry.

UP plays a vital role in the Los Angeles County, California and U.S. transportation and goods movement system. That system has been in keen focus this past year throughout the national supply chain crisis. Our extensive rail network and facilities provide the County an economic engine that drives commercial and workforce development in various transportation, retail, and industrial sectors. In fact, UP has been recognized by the White House, California Governor’s Office, and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for our committed efforts to provide supply chain solutions that increase economic fluidity and associated public benefits.

While operating a freight railroad is our primary business, safety is our top priority. Since December 2020, UP has experienced an over 160% increase in criminal rail theft in Los Angeles County. In several months during that period, the increase from the previous year surpassed 200%. In October 2021 alone, the increase was 356% over compared to October 2020. Not only do these dramatic increases represent retail product thefts – they include increased assaults and armed robberies of UP employees performing their duties moving trains.

Specifically, just over the past three months of intermodal peak season in preparation for holiday shopping, UP has had the following experience in Los Angeles County:
  • On average, over 90 containers compromised per day.
  • In partnership with Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), and California Highway Patrol (CHP) we estimate over 100 arrests have been made of active criminals vandalizing our trains. UP alone making several dozens of arrests.
  • With our law enforcement partners we have deterred hundreds of individuals from trespassing and vandalizing our trains.
  • Of all those arrests, however, UP has not been contacted for any court proceedings.
This increased criminal activity over the past twelve months accounts for approximately $5 million in claims, losses and damages to UP. And that value does not include respective losses to our impacted customers. Nor does it capture the larger operating or commercial impacts to the UP network or supply chain system in Los Angeles County.

In response to this increased, organized, and opportunistic criminal activity, UP by its own effort and cost enlisted additional and existing Special Agents across the UP system to join our local efforts with LAPD, LASD and CHP to help prevent the ongoing thefts. We have also utilized and are further exploring the use of additional technologies to help us combat these criminals through drones, specialized fencing, trespass detection systems, and other measures.

But even with these expanded resources and closer partnerships with local law enforcement, we find ourselves coming back to the same results with the Los Angeles County criminal justice system. Criminals are caught and arrested, turned over to local authorities for booking, arraigned before the local courts, charges are reduced to a misdemeanor or petty offense, and the criminal is released after paying a nominal fine. These individuals are generally caught and released back onto the streets in less than twenty-four hours. Even with all the arrests made, the no-cash bail policy and extended timeframe for suspects to appear in court is causing re-victimization to UP by these same criminals. In fact, criminals boast to our officers that charges will be pled down to simple trespassing – which bears no serious consequence. Without any judicial deterrence or consequence, it is no surprise that over the past year UP has witnessed the significant increase in criminal rail theft described above.

As a result of Los Angeles County’s rail theft crisis, customers like UPS and FedEx that utilize our essential rail service during peak holiday season are now seeking to divert rail business away to other areas in the hope of avoiding the organized and opportunistic criminal theft that has impacted their own business and customers. Like our customers, UP is now contemplating serious changes to our operating plans to avoid Los Angeles County. We do not take this effort lightly, particularly during the supply chain crisis, as this drastic change to our operations will create significant impacts and strains throughout the local, state, and national supply chain systems.

UP and our goods movement partners strongly urge you to reconsider the policies detailed in Special Directive 20-07. While we understand the well-intended social justice goals of the policy, we need our justice system to support our partnership efforts with local law enforcement, hold these criminals accountable, and most important, help protect our employees and the critical local and national rail network. We thank you for taking our concerns into account. We stand ready to meet with you and other stakeholders to help implement needed and immediate actions. We look forward to that necessary collaboration to restore public safety and order.

Sincerely,

Adrian Guerrero
 

joelkfla

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On the Criminal Law professor's listserv, this letter from UP on the situation was reproduced--it has apparently been widely disseminated by UP. Obviously this is from UP's perspective, but given this thread, I thought I would copy it here:

December 20, 2021



Honorable George Gascón

Los Angeles County District Attorney District Attorney’s Office

211 West Temple Street Suite 1200

Los Angeles, CA 90012



Re: Union Pacific Railroad Train Thefts and Safety Concerns

Dear District Attorney Gascón,

On behalf of Union Pacific Railroad (UP) and our 1,600 employees covering 275 miles of track at our nine rail facilities throughout Los Angeles County, I am reaching out to request your leadership, attention, and immediate action to the spiraling crisis of organized and opportunistic criminal rail theft that is impacting our employees, customers and supply chain industry.

UP plays a vital role in the Los Angeles County, California and U.S. transportation and goods movement system. That system has been in keen focus this past year throughout the national supply chain crisis. Our extensive rail network and facilities provide the County an economic engine that drives commercial and workforce development in various transportation, retail, and industrial sectors. In fact, UP has been recognized by the White House, California Governor’s Office, and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for our committed efforts to provide supply chain solutions that increase economic fluidity and associated public benefits.

While operating a freight railroad is our primary business, safety is our top priority. Since December 2020, UP has experienced an over 160% increase in criminal rail theft in Los Angeles County. In several months during that period, the increase from the previous year surpassed 200%. In October 2021 alone, the increase was 356% over compared to October 2020. Not only do these dramatic increases represent retail product thefts – they include increased assaults and armed robberies of UP employees performing their duties moving trains.

Specifically, just over the past three months of intermodal peak season in preparation for holiday shopping, UP has had the following experience in Los Angeles County:
  • On average, over 90 containers compromised per day.
  • In partnership with Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), and California Highway Patrol (CHP) we estimate over 100 arrests have been made of active criminals vandalizing our trains. UP alone making several dozens of arrests.
  • With our law enforcement partners we have deterred hundreds of individuals from trespassing and vandalizing our trains.
  • Of all those arrests, however, UP has not been contacted for any court proceedings.
This increased criminal activity over the past twelve months accounts for approximately $5 million in claims, losses and damages to UP. And that value does not include respective losses to our impacted customers. Nor does it capture the larger operating or commercial impacts to the UP network or supply chain system in Los Angeles County.

In response to this increased, organized, and opportunistic criminal activity, UP by its own effort and cost enlisted additional and existing Special Agents across the UP system to join our local efforts with LAPD, LASD and CHP to help prevent the ongoing thefts. We have also utilized and are further exploring the use of additional technologies to help us combat these criminals through drones, specialized fencing, trespass detection systems, and other measures.

But even with these expanded resources and closer partnerships with local law enforcement, we find ourselves coming back to the same results with the Los Angeles County criminal justice system. Criminals are caught and arrested, turned over to local authorities for booking, arraigned before the local courts, charges are reduced to a misdemeanor or petty offense, and the criminal is released after paying a nominal fine. These individuals are generally caught and released back onto the streets in less than twenty-four hours. Even with all the arrests made, the no-cash bail policy and extended timeframe for suspects to appear in court is causing re-victimization to UP by these same criminals. In fact, criminals boast to our officers that charges will be pled down to simple trespassing – which bears no serious consequence. Without any judicial deterrence or consequence, it is no surprise that over the past year UP has witnessed the significant increase in criminal rail theft described above.

As a result of Los Angeles County’s rail theft crisis, customers like UPS and FedEx that utilize our essential rail service during peak holiday season are now seeking to divert rail business away to other areas in the hope of avoiding the organized and opportunistic criminal theft that has impacted their own business and customers. Like our customers, UP is now contemplating serious changes to our operating plans to avoid Los Angeles County. We do not take this effort lightly, particularly during the supply chain crisis, as this drastic change to our operations will create significant impacts and strains throughout the local, state, and national supply chain systems.

UP and our goods movement partners strongly urge you to reconsider the policies detailed in Special Directive 20-07. While we understand the well-intended social justice goals of the policy, we need our justice system to support our partnership efforts with local law enforcement, hold these criminals accountable, and most important, help protect our employees and the critical local and national rail network. We thank you for taking our concerns into account. We stand ready to meet with you and other stakeholders to help implement needed and immediate actions. We look forward to that necessary collaboration to restore public safety and order.

Sincerely,

Adrian Guerrero
Makes sense to me. The decriminalization of crime makes crime pay.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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As a result of Los Angeles County’s rail theft crisis, customers like UPS and FedEx that utilize our essential rail service during peak holiday season are now seeking to divert rail business away to other areas in the hope of avoiding the organized and opportunistic criminal theft that has impacted their own business and customers.

Seasonal customers? I understand UPS and FedEx would try to divert traffic, but to say there only use rail during peak holidays traffic would be wrong. The problem is limited capacity in the supply chain transportation to adjust to interruptions.

To divert traffic you need highway capacity, tractors, and of course people.
 

enviro5609

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New York
As a lawyer-

I don’t know the facts here on the arrests or the decisions to not prosecute— if that’s even what happened. This seems like a lot of posturing and performative blame shifting because this issue has media attention at the moment. I’ve seen and written letters like that before. That was written to create a record, not to actually convey information.

What immediately comes to mind is— of all those arrested, were any of those actually caught in the act? Are these actually prosecutable cases with good evidence and arrests? Or did UP and LASD respond when the conditions were reported— well after the thieves were gone— round up a bunch of homeless rooting through the trash left behind, and call it a day?

From personal experience, it wouldn’t be the first time the police gave me a “case” with no evidence and then got upset I didn’t prosecute. But it does effectively shift blame.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I personally think both sides are partly to blame. UP for not protecting their own cargo and CA for not punishing criminals enough to dissuade future illegal behavior. Seems fixable but hard to say when or if they'll get there.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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The railroad need to cleaning up this mess up. The boxes spread around the track are attracted more people to this area.

Edit: complete change my thoughts and statement.
 
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tgstubbs1

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Or at least they need to keep the right of way much cleaner. If you see boxes of stuff on the ground, why are we surprised people are look in them, and taken stuff.
There was a washing machine on the video they had on TV. No wonder they had a derailment.
 
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west point

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RR locks are fairly strong. Maybe a hockey puck type might be even better. UP could stop an intermodal somewhere close to LA add the locks and remove them once trailers and containers are in the intermodal yard?

If the thieves know RRs they may be able to knock the glad hands apart. That would put the train into emergency stopping the train.
 
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]
RR locks are fairly strong. Maybe a hockey puck type might be even better. UP could stop an intermodal somewhere close to LA add the locks and remove them once trailers and containers are in the intermodal yard?

If the thieves know RRs they may be able to knock the glad hands apart. That would put the train into emergency stopping the train.
Is there some source that explains the way containers are secured? I realize that no lock is totally immune to being forced open, but surely there should be locks that make the job difficult enough that the vast majority of thieves won't bother and will look for an easier target.
 

PeeweeTM

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Hihi, and than put all the keys of the about 200 containers in one bag and let the 'Memory Game' begin in Chicago!
Or, use just one model key and show it on a YouTube (well, TikTok nowadays) so the key can be 3D-printed as per TSA-instruction...
😉

Well, we had our share of container content thefts in Rotterdam, too, about twenty years ago.
But that has mostly subsided now.
Most container cars have anti-theft bars. And where possible containers are loaded with the doors facing each other.
And some shippers use a special set of locks on their containerpool.
 

ehbowen

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Hihi, and than put all the keys of the about 200 containers in one bag and let the 'Memory Game' begin in Chicago!
Or, use just one model key and show it on a YouTube (well, TikTok nowadays) so the key can be 3D-printed as per TSA-instruction...
😉

Yes, that's the problem. When your factory is in China, and your distribution centers are scattered all through the "lower 48"...how do you make sure that they all have the same key, and that no one else does?
 

Chris I

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Actually fairly easy to solve. The good governor should call up 1,000 or so National Guards and deploy them to the train yards for a month.
You do realize that the National Guard is made up of regular people, with families and responsibilities, right? Pulling hundreds of these people out of their regular lives to go protect Amazon packages in a private corporation's railyard is a crazy idea. I would even go as far as calling it gross abuse of power to help a private corporation with public resources like that.
 
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There is definitely an interesting debate as to what extent the government and private enterprise have to provide safety and security. I'm not ready for a world in which private companies are left entirely on their own for combating criminality, but I also appreciate that a private company plays a role in mitigating their loss.
 

tgstubbs1

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There is definitely an interesting debate as to what extent the government and private enterprise have to provide safety and security. I'm not ready for a world in which private companies are left entirely on their own for combating criminality, but I also appreciate that a private company plays a role in mitigating their loss.

Yes. The train yards are private property, but open to public areas.
 
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You do realize that the National Guard is made up of regular people, with families and responsibilities, right? Pulling hundreds of these people out of their regular lives to go protect Amazon packages in a private corporation's railyard is a crazy idea. I would even go as far as calling it gross abuse of power to help a private corporation with public resources like that.
Especially since we are talking about 90 containers a day out of the 20,000+ that pass through the port. The main responsibility for dealing with this should fall on UP, although if there are organized rings masterminding the thefts, law enforcement needs to be involved. Better ways of securing the containers and restricting access to the tracks would probably take care of most of the casual scavengers. There's certainly no need to snarl up the LA County DA's office and adding to the probably filled over capacity jails with these sort of low level offenders. If Amtrak can fence off its tracks on the NEC, surely UP can do the same.
 

Qapla

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Part of the situation comes about because the rails are not nationalized. Essentially, the rails are private property, and the police cannot patrol them. If they were nationalized, like the highways, they could be openly patrolled but the railways could not have people "trespassed" from them like they do now.

It can be a Catch 22 situation
 
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