Authorities Say L.A. Railroad Theft Rings Dismantled

Authorities Say L.A. Railroad Theft Rings Dismantled


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LOS ANGELES — Two theft rings that netted greater than $18 million price of merchandise stolen from railroad vehicles have been dismantled, authorities stated Nov. 17, months after photographs of a sea of discarded containers alongside Union Pacific tracks in Lincoln Heights, Calif., drew nationwide consideration.

Within the monthslong operation geared toward curbing rail theft throughout Los Angeles County, a activity pressure has made greater than 700 arrests and recovered tens of millions of {dollars} in stolen items, together with designer purses, energy instruments and a pair of empty coffins, authorities stated.

“This wanted a devoted collection, and it additionally wanted police assets outdoors of simply LAPD, California Freeway Patrol, the Sheriff’s Division, legislation enforcement companies,” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore stated. “Folks’s willingness to purchase one thing at a reduction and looking for that out is fueling the greed of receivers to go discover people who’ll exit and who’ll commit burglaries.”

Although the Los Angeles Police Division had beforehand investigated rail theft, the duty pressure was fashioned in January in response to “the unrelenting assault and the continued loss and the proliferation of particles and the hazards that had been posed by this ongoing risk,” Moore stated.

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Among the thefts had been the work of opportunists working alone, however authorities stated they recognized two organized fencing rings. Two dozen members of these rings have been arrested, about half of them charged with crimes together with housebreaking and receiving stolen property, authorities stated. Their operations reached as far east as Texas; authorities stated additionally they traced among the stolen items to Mexico.

The rise of e-commerce and Southern California’s position as a hub for the motion of products drew thieves in search of a goal, Moore stated. Different observers see the rise in such thefts as emblematic of the desperation that has engulfed elements of the nation for the reason that outbreak of the pandemic, which value tens of millions of individuals their jobs.

The thefts additionally raised considerations about vulnerabilities in a key aspect of the availability chain.

Of explicit concern was the theft of firearms, authorities stated, together with greater than 40 handguns and rifles taken from a prepare sure for Tennessee, which wasn’t found till the prepare reached its vacation spot.

In a letter to L.A. County District Lawyer George Gascón in December, Union Pacific reported that thefts concentrating on its trains in Los Angeles County had elevated by 160% over the 12 months earlier than, with a very sharp surge within the lead-up to the height vacation season. The railroad firm has argued that the theft downside was made worse by Gascón’s strategy to prosecuting prison offenders.

Shipping containers at the Union Pacific Los Angeles rail terminal

Transport containers on the Union Pacific Los Angeles rail terminal in Commerce, Calif. The corporate enhanced its safety measures after rail theft drew nationwide consideration in early 2022. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg Information)

“Costs are decreased to a misdemeanor or petty offense, and the prison is launched after paying a nominal wonderful,” Adrian Guerrero, a director of public affairs for Union Pacific, stated within the letter.

In response, Gascón chastised Union Pacific for having poor safety and stated that his workplace was submitting prices in opposition to the suspects.

Moore echoed that sentiment Nov. 17, saying the district lawyer’s workplace’s place on such circumstances had “advanced.”

It’s nonetheless unclear how widespread prepare thefts are as a result of nationwide knowledge about such crimes is spotty at finest.

Union Pacific and different rail firms function their very own personal police forces and regularly collaborate with legislation enforcement companies. Rail operators have taken steps in current months to beef up everlasting safety measures round rail strains, together with bringing in further safety, putting in lighting and utilizing safer locks to discourage would-be thieves.

Michel Moore, Los Angeles Police Chief

Michel Moore, Los Angeles Police Chief

Jordan Lippel, vice chairman of gross sales for ECamSecure, stated the Lengthy Seaside safety firm labored with Union Pacific to extend surveillance of its property by means of monitoring enhanced with synthetic intelligence.

“The bogus intelligence is about as much as detect folks and automobiles in restricted areas, and as soon as these restricted areas are created by means of an invisible geofence, they alert our command middle in Lengthy Seaside, the place our specialised brokers are in a position to take acceptable, real-time motion,” he stated.

Los Angeles Metropolis Lawyer Mike Feuer stated the duty pressure, which ballooned to roughly 40 policing companies, underscored the significance of legislation enforcement collaboration.

“It’s a reminder to all of us that for each main downside in our area, sometimes, we’ve got to deliver collectively a number of companies, whether or not it’s a prison subject or a quality-of-life subject or housing,” he stated.

Union Pacific Railroad ranks No. 18 on the Transport Subjects High 50 listing of the most important international freight firms.

Occasions employees writers Rachel Uranga and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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