Videos show LA train lines strewn with thousands of looted packages as thieves raid unattended containers

A yellow United Pacific train viewed from the front. Two men in hi-vis jackets cling to the sides.
A file image of a United Pacific train in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 2014. Nati Harnik/AP Photo
  • A CBS photographer captured stunning footage of looted packages along an LA railway line. 
  • The video appears to show the extent of theft from train containers near a Union Pacific terminal.
  • Sources told CBS that Union Pacific container locks are easy to cut, making theft relatively simple.

Thousands of empty, looted packages strewn along Los Angeles railway lines have been caught on video, highlighting what appears to be chronic theft from cargo containers.

CBS Los Angeles photographer John Schreiber posted a series of videos in a Twitter thread on Thursday, saying he had headed to the tracks in the Lincoln Heights area of the city after hearing about thefts from trains on the local police scanner.

At Lincoln Heights — a densely-populated area in central LA — train tracks converge on a Union Pacific (UP) terminal as well as a United Parcel Service (UPS) customer center, where trains unload their cargo.

Schreiber estimated that at least one in five of the containers he saw on the tracks had been targeted, with doors open and locks cut.

“There’s looted packages as far as the eye can see,” he wrote. He reported having found packages from UPS and Amazon strewn across the tracks.

Schreiber also found items like Epi Pens and COVID-19 test kits. Such items weren’t considered valuable enough to take by thieves, CBS LA reported

Further videos from Schreiber’s show the ground densely littered with cardboard and opened packages on either side of the tracks.

UP agents have primary responsibility for policing the tracks and the areas alongside them. According to CBS LA, police don’t respond to reports from the area unless UP asks for help, which they said it rarely does. LAPD’s interactive crime map shows no reported thefts in the area.

Unnamed sources also told CBSLA that the locks on Union Pacific containers are easy to cut, which alongside the lack of police involvement makes thefts more straightforward.

Union Pacific did not immediately respond to Insider’s out-of-hours request for comment, but told CBS LA it is “very concerned” about the increase in thefts.

According to Schreiber, the area had been cleaned up by staff twice in the last three months, giving a sense of the sheer volume of thefts taking place. 

In its statement to CBS LA, UP said it has taken action against the problem. 

“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,” it said.

“We also will continue to work with our local law enforcement partners and elected leaders.”