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Thieves Litter Train Tracks With Family Mementos

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Clean-up crews found canvas portraits of a family of four, along with many other personal mementos, among the seemingly endless amounts of debris littered onto the railroads in East Los Angeles after thieves deemed them worthless.

"I have been with Union Pacific for 16 years, and I have never, ever seen this situation to this degree," said Lupe Valdez, the company's senior director of public affairs.

The turmoil plaguing the Union Pacific train tracks near Union Station has not only affected large corporations from Amazon to REI but consumers waiting on their family keepsakes to arrive.

"We're paying the price as consumers. All of us shop online these days and this is something we're also paying the price for," Valdez said.

Union Pacific said while it is a common occurrence for their containers to be raided, saying on average, 90 cars are compromised each day, the raids on their trains have skyrocketed. According to Valdez, from October 2020 and 2021 train robberies have increased 356%, with many offenders returning even after they have been arrested by law enforcement. 

While the company's private police department has made over 100 arrests in the past three months, their agents have yet to be called to testify in court. Union Pacific has placed the blame on District Attorney George Gascón for not being tough enough on crime.

"We are making arrests, but what our officers are seeing on the ground is that people are basically being arrested, there is no bail, they come out the next day and come back to rob our trains," Valdez said.

The District Attorney's office and Union Pacific hope to meet in the coming weeks to discuss ways to reduce cargo theft but no meeting time has been scheduled as of Tuesday evening.

According to a statement from Alex Bastain, Special Advisor to Gascón, the District Attorney's office has filed some charges in connection to the robberies but said others were "declined due to insufficient evidence."

"Our office takes Union Pacific's concerns seriously and hopes to discuss this issue more in the coming weeks," Bastain said in a statement on Jan. 14.

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