A trend of train cargo thefts have left a sea of debris for miles along Los Angeles County railroads, leading to an increase in security and surveillance.

Union Pacific railroads have been specifically targeted, with the company claiming up to 90 containers a day are affected by people breaking in and taking merchandise.


In response, Union Pacific increased its security in the form of more police, drone surveillance and fencing with “trespass-detection systems.”


Still, the company believes the city’s catch-and-release protocol is to blame for the thefts, relaying its feelings to District Attorney George Gascón in a letter and claiming that thieves .

“Criminals are caught and arrested, turned over to local authorities for booking, arraigned before the local courts, charges are reduced to a misdemeanor or petty offense, and the criminal is released after paying a nominal fine,” the letter said. “These individuals are generally caught and released back onto the streets in less than 24 hours. Even with all the arrests made, the no-cash bail policy and extended timeframe for suspects to appear in court is causing re-victimization to Union Pacific by these same criminals.”

One of Union Pacific’s trains derailed on January 15, with at least 17 cars coming off the tracks. As of this writing, the cause of the train’s derailment is still unknown and occurred in the same Lincoln Heights location where thefts the cargo thefts have been occurring.

“We’re working with the rail and we’re working with our federal counterparts, LAPD and we’re going to put together a gameplan to stop the nonsense right now,” L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Wednesday. “It’s sad that it got to this point, because it was unnecessary and now the lack of a prosecution is a huge problem. We’re not going to stop doing our job because the D.A. doesn’t want to do his job.”


The District Attorney’s Office acknowledged Union Pacific’s concerns and said it will “discuss” the issues.

“Our office is committed to working with law enforcement to ensure collective safety across Los Angeles County’s sprawling infrastructure, whether it’s at our ports or on railroad tracks,” the DA said in a public statement. “Our office takes Union Pacific’s concerns seriously and hopes to discuss this issue more in the coming weeks.”

LA Weekly