Thieves are jumping on slow moving trains and prising open shipping containers to plunder Amazon packages in a spate of modern day train robberies that underscore a crime wave in Los Angeles.
Cargo trains carrying packages from Amazon and other deliveries have been repeatedly raided on a large scale near the city’s downtown.
Remains of thousands of boxes and packages have been left strewn alongside the tracks after criminals jumped on to trains and forced open containers.
The sea of debris left behind included items they apparently did not think were valuable enough to take, including coronavirus home testing kits.
Keep hearing of train burglaries in LA on the scanner so went to #LincolnHeights to see it all. And… there’s looted packages as far as the eye can see. Amazon packages, @UPS boxes, unused Covid tests, fishing lures, epi pens. Cargo containers left busted open on trains. @CBSLA pic.twitter.com/JvNF4UVy2K
— John Schreiber (@johnschreiber) January 13, 2022
It followed a series of recent high-profile smash-and-grab raids in Los Angeles, in which mobs rushed into upmarket stores and ran off with expensive items.
Following the train looting remnants of packaging showed items had been stolen that were being delivered to customers all over America.
Local TV crews filmed one train robber running off with a package, a police officer chasing two other suspects, and another person carrying bolt cutters.
Passing trains carried containers with doors that had already been broken open, with packages tumbling out.
Union Pacific, the railroad company, had cleared away the shredded packaging from one stretch of track a month ago, but by this week it once again stretched away into the distance.
In a statement Union Pacific, which operates its own police force to guard the track, said it was concerned about the increase in cargo thefts and had beefed up security.
It said: “We have increased the number of Union Pacific special agents on patrol, and we have utilised and explored additional technologies to help us combat this criminal activity.”
Much of the crime has taken place along sections of the railroad which have growing homeless encampments next to the track.
In November there were raids on trains that were stationary due to a backlog moving cargo from the Port of Los Angeles, which is America’s busiest port.
Thieves have recently been targeting trains as they move slowly approaching downtown, jumping on and breaking in.
John Schreiber, an aerial camera operator for CBS in Los Angeles, said he went to the railroad tracks after he kept hearing about train burglaries.
He said: “There’s looted packages as far as the eye can see. Amazon packages, UPS [United Parcel Service] boxes, unused Covid tests, fishing lures, epi pens, cargo containers left busted open on trains.”
He said thieves appeared particularly keen on packages headed for residential addresses.After jumping onto the train the thieves “use this opportunity to break open containers and take what’s inside,” he said. “I’d say every 4th or 5th rail car had opened containers.”
Last month police in Los Angeles arrested a dozen people over smash-and-grab raids at stores.They were accused over a spate of 11 brazen raids in 10 days in which $340,000 worth of merchandise was stolen.
Critics have linked the crime wave to the ending of a no-bail policy for some criminal defendants, a move that was aimed at reducing overcrowding at jails.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said last month: “We should be able to have judges that put people behind bars.”
The crime spike in Los Angeles has included a 12 per cent rise in homicides in 2021, with nearly 400 killings.
Violent crime was up 3.9 per cent last year, and property crime increased 4.2 per cent over the same period.
Mr Garcetti said: “There are gang members themselves who are unhoused, living in our toughest [homeless] encampments. We’ve seen stabbings over, just, personal conflicts.
“People who seemingly have no future who are insulted by a [social media] post, so they go out and hunt, and prey and shoot and kill another individual over something that’s said in a Facebook post or on Instagram.”
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