(Trends Wide) — Photos and videos showing piles of empty boxes dumped alongside train tracks in California’s Los Angeles County have gone viral as transportation companies say they’ve seen a dramatic rise in train theft. Some of the boxes are packages from companies like UPS, Amazon and FedEx.
Union Pacific, one of the nation’s largest rail companies, says it may avoid operating in Los Angeles County following a surge in thefts, which it blames on negligence in prosecuting crimes. Containers and trains are locked, but can be broken into.
The company said last month in a letter to the Los Angeles district attorney that it saw a 160% annual increase in thefts in Los Angeles County. The company claims that a special directive issued in December 2020 by District Attorney George Gascon that changed the way low-level crimes are prosecuted contributed to the increase.
Union Pacific said in its letter that in the last three months of the year it made, in partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, more than 100 arrests of “active criminals who wrecked our trains.”
But the company, which has its own police department with jurisdiction over the more than 52,000 km of roads it owns, said that while it has expanded its security resources and partnered more closely with local law enforcement, the problem is not going to go away. . After being arrested, people are released within 24 hours, he said.
Crime is associated with increases in poverty, which increased during the pandemic. The county directive was intended to combat the social ills that come from misdemeanor convictions, such as difficulties with employment, housing, education, government benefits and immigration.
“Studies show that the prosecution of the crimes that generate the majority of misdemeanor cases have minimal, or even negative, long-term impacts on public safety,” Gascon said when the directive was issued. (His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
“While we understand the well-intentioned social justice goals of the policy, we need our justice system to support our efforts to partner with local law enforcement, hold these criminals accountable, and most importantly, help protect our employees and the critical local and national rail system,” said Guerrero.
The Association of American Railroads expressed concern about rising crime.
“In coordination with local law and, when necessary, federal law enforcement partners, the industry is committed to pursuing all avenues necessary to address this criminal behavior,” spokesman Ted Greener said in a statement.