US Freight Train Heists: Wild West 2.0

As of: 01/21/2022 4:31 p.m

Thieves are currently stealing trains that run through Los Angeles on a large scale. During the journey, they pick the locks, clear out the goods and leave mountains of rubbish behind on the rails. The police are helpless.

By Katharina Willinger, ARD Studio Los Angeles

A freight train drives through downtown Los Angeles at walking pace. Some of the doors of the overseas containers are wide open, you can see that microwaves and refrigerators are being transported inside – apparently too big and too heavy to steal them.

Catherine William
ARD-Studio Los Angeles

The train passes thousands of torn packages that have been stolen from the trains and never found their way to their rightful recipients. Thieves have been plundering the containers for months in a big goal. According to information from the railroad company Union Pacific, these thefts have increased by 160 percent within a year.

“Day and night, all day long. They don’t care if the trains are moving or not,” Adam Rodriguez, who works for Union Pacific, tells local Los Angeles television.

No common form of environmental vandalism: the legacies of the robberies stretch along the tracks for many kilometers through Los Angeles.

Image: AFP

Jumping up at a slow pace

Railroad workers report that the thieves jump onto the slow-moving trains in the city area, which break open freight containers with bolt cutters. The packages would be thrown onto the track bed and then searched for content that could be used or sold on the black market.

The garbage in the track bed and along the rails stretches for hundreds of meters, it looks as if a hurricane has raged. Lupe Valdez of Union Pacific says it’s outrageous. A private security company has already turned around a hundred people over to the police, often without major consequences: “My employees report that many people come back and say: ‘I’m out and back, they can’t hurt me.’ That’s crazy!” Valdez said in an interview with the TV channel CNBC.

The pandemic has increased poverty and thus increased theft, according to the Los Angeles County Attorney’s Office.

Torn-open shipping packages from delivery trains that were ambushed lie on the tracks.

Bild: picture alliance / newscom

City employees carry away the thieves’ rubbish by the sack, and yet they can’t keep up.

Image: EPA

Beachhead in the Pacific region

Los Angeles is one of the most important transhipment centers in the USA – 40 percent of all cargo in the United States arrives at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach alone. The packages and parcels often come from large mail order companies such as Amazon, which then have to replace the goods for their customers.

The railroad says the total damage is about $5 million a year. Drones and security people are now being used to protect against theft. Union Pacific is now checking whether the greater Los Angeles area can also be bypassed over a wide area.

The Wild West 2.0: Amazon trains are stolen in LA

Katharina Wilhelm, ARD Los Angeles, January 20, 2022 7:10 p.m

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