Guns are among the items stolen by thieves targeting railroad cargo containers, Los Angeles police said.
Robbers have been looting cargo containers on a section of the Union Pacific train tracks in downtown Los Angeles for months, taking packages and leaving thousands of shredded boxes.
"People were ... breaking into these containers and stealing firearms, tens of firearms," Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"That gave us the great concern as a source again of further violence in the city as people were capitalizing on the transport of these containers with having little or no policing or security services there."
LAPD Deputy Chief Al Labrada, who commands the area that includes the Lincoln Heights railroad tracks, said the department had recovered "numerous guns" from people who said the weapons were taken from railroad box cars.
Union Pacific, which operates about 275 miles of tracks in Los Angeles County, said an average of 90 containers per day have been burgularized since December 2020.
Union Pacific has put losses, claims, and damage at around $5 million for goods looted along the West Coast. The railroad company said in a statement that rail incidents in Los Angeles County, including theft, assaults, and armed robberies of employees, rose 160% in 2021.
"Despite all the attention brought to this, and despite the ongoing efforts by Union Pacific to solve some additional security elements, we still have people that are still drawn to this location," Moore said, the Times reported.
Previous reports said packages stolen at the tracks were from retailers such as Amazon and Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), among others.
Thieves left behind items that they apparently didn’t consider to be valuable enough to take, such as at-home COVID test kits.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., showed up at the L.A. tracks to help bag debris and condemned the thefts on Jan. 20, the same day LAPD arrested six people who had been under surveillance for crimes related to the train break-ins.
Union Pacific has said the theft issue was made worse by L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón's progressive approach — such as dismissing certain misdemeanors like trespassing, before arraignment — to prosecuting criminal offenders.
Gascón then scolded the railroad for having poor security.
"It is very telling that other major railroad operations in the area are not facing the same level of theft at their facilities as UP," Gascón said in a letter last week. "We can ensure that appropriate cases are filed and prosecuted; however, my office is not tasked with keeping your sites secure, and the district attorney alone cannot solve the major issues facing your organization."
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