Thefts on trains in L.A. County may lead to Union Pacific not operating there

yellow train

The railroad said in the media Tuesday that the tolls on trains in Los Angeles County may lead to Union Pacific not operating there. The containers and trains are locked but can be broken into, leading to losses that range from $10,000 to $200,000 per heist, Union Pacific spokesman Jeff DeGraff told NBC4 Southern California. He also blamed lax prosecution of crimes that may have led to the thefts, including drug use and sales of stolen goods from railroad cargo containers.

Union Pacific Threatens

Union Pacific, one of America’s largest railroad companies, said it might not operate in Los Angeles County due to lax prosecution of thefts. Thieves can get into locked rail cars and containers and remove goods at will; with little chance of prosecution from law enforcement agencies, it would seem that thieves are fairly certain they can get away with their crime – and they have been proven right thus far. This situation is unacceptable, and something must be done.

railroad train under bridge on railway
Photo by Luciana Sena on

Union Pacific owns 11,000 freight cars

All 11,000 of UP’s rail cars are equipped with LoJack® Systems, making it impossible for anyone other than law enforcement and authorized recovery personnel to activate a stolen car’s device. In addition, each car is equipped with two GPS tracking devices that can pinpoint its location anywhere in North America and Europe via satellite. Although the containers (Boxcars) themselves also have tamper-proof seals that make them impossible to break into without detection, theft is something Union Pacific is facing an increasing amount of—in 2017 alone, 3,500 freight cars were reportedly broken into in California. Most recently, thieves damaged signals along tracks near Pico Rivera while trying to pry open boxcars parked at an industry site.

Deterrent Measures

Though train thefts are down from their peak in 2010, when 100 containers were stolen, they’re still a problem. Union Pacific is considering avoiding Los Angeles entirely by using ports such as Oakland, Long Beach, and Seattle to unload its cargo, where it won’t have to worry about break-ins or theft.


This week, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said he would ask state legislators for laws that would make it easier to prosecute thieves who target freight train cars and other vehicles used by cargo carriers and law enforcement agencies. McDonnell said such crimes cost thousands of dollars and divert resources from police agencies that need them elsewhere. The sheriff also noted what he called a more serious problem: That steel is increasingly being stolen from freight train tracks for recycling, putting lives at risk when criminals dump heavy loads onto passing passenger lines. -MM

Michele Mitchell Blog Writer for Ubuntu Village

Hi, I am Michele Mitchell, also known as Neftalia2017. I am the President and Founder of Ubuntu Village and the author of this blog post. I have been writing for ten years as a pastime.

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