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Rail thefts leave train tracks trashed with package scraps in California

Thieves have been reportedly breaking into cargo containers and taking packages belonging to customers all across the U.S.

LOS ANGELES — Photos and videos spreading online of destroyed and opened packages littered along train tracks in Los Angeles, California have brought attention to an ongoing problem in "The City of Angels."

As packages from companies like UPS, Amazon and FedEx end up on the railways, shipping companies say there has been a "dramatic" spike in railroad theft, CNN reports.

The number of thefts could cause Union Pacific, one of the country's largest railroad companies, to stop operating in Los Angeles County altogether, the media outlet explains.

So, what is exactly happening for this amount of trash to be littered? People are shopping with a five-finger discount.

Thieves have been breaking into cargo containers and taking packages belonging to customers all across the U.S., CBS Los Angeles reports.

Anything they don't want? They simply toss it on the ground.

Sources told CBSLA the locks Union Pacific uses are "easy to cut" and the police department only responds to reports of train robberies if the company asks for help — which is reportedly rare.

Union Pacific was able to clean the train tracks three months ago but after 30 days, it was once again littered with newly discarded boxes, CBSLA reports.

"Union Pacific is very concerned about the increased cargo thefts in California, and we have taken several steps to address this criminal activity. These rail crimes pose a serious safety threat to the public, our employees and local law enforcement officers," the railroad company said in a statement to CBSLA.

"We have increased the number of Union Pacific special agents on patrol, and we have utilized and explored additional technologies to help us combat this criminal activity. We also will continue to work with our local law enforcement partners and elected leaders," it added.

Union Pacific didn't release specific information on what was stolen or how much it all added up to but the company said the ongoing problem cost them at least $5 million in 2021, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Adrian Guerrero, a director of public affairs for Union Pacific, told the outlet that around 90 cargo containers are compromised a day with some of the thefts being planned by organized groups.

“Organized and opportunistic criminal rail theft ... impacts our employees, our customers in the overall supply chain industry," Guerrero said to the L.A. Times.

So, what is the railroad company doing to try to stop this problem? They are bringing in more backup.

Guerrero said Union Pacific is deploying more drones, bringing in extra security and teaming up with the Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office to fight back against the issue.

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