Los Angeles: The state of California has seen an explosion of cases related to the theft of parcels and goods carried from companies like Amazon, Target and UPS, an AFP report claimed. The thieves are targeting stopped freight trains and looting the parcels which they then leave scattered along the railway line along the Los Angeles supply chain, the report said.
Christmas shopping and increased demand for online commerce services has led to an increase in the number of parcels delivered which in turn has led to the surge in thefts, AFP reported.
The thieves wait until the long freight trains are immobilized on the tracks, and then climb onto the freight containers, whose locks they easily break with the help of bolt cutters. Items which have low resale value or cheap are discarded on the lines, including Covid-19 testing kits, furniture and medication.
The explosion in looting has been accompanied by an upsurge in "assaults and armed robberies of train operator Union Pacific (UP) employees performing their duties moving trains," a letter sent by UPS (United Parcel Service) to rail operator UP. The letter also claims that theft increased by 356% in October 2021 compared to October 2020.
According to figures reported by UP, more than 90 containers were vandalized every day on average in Los Angeles County in the last quarter of 2021.To combat the trend, Union Pacific says it has strengthened surveillance measures -- including drones and other detection systems -- and recruited more security staff for its tracks and convoys.
However a Union Pacific spokesperson told AFP that since there were little consequences for theft, the thieves were often let back out on the streets on bail whereupon they would go on to commit the same kind of crime. In response, the rail carrier had written to the Los Angeles district attorney's office asking the government to make punishments for such offences more strict, since they had been relaxed in 2020.
The operator estimates that damages from such thefts in 2021 amounted to some $5 million, adding that the amount in claims and losses "does not include respective losses to our impacted customers" or the impact on Union Pacific's operations and the entire Los Angeles County supply chain.