When we last checked in with that Amazon package you ordered back in October, it was sitting in cardboard ruins somewhere on a Northeast L.A. train track, ravaged by enterprising thieves.
Since then, the story of bandits targeting cargo trains heading north out of the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach amid a global slowdown of shipping operations has gone off the rails.
Last Friday, Forbes chimed in on the subject, detailing the continuation of these thefts. Not only were toys, beauty products, and other petroleum-based luxuries going missing, but even badly needed Covid tests. A reported 90 cargo containers a day are being broken into, causing $5 million in losses for Union Pacific. About 40% of the country’s imported goods come through the Port.
Thieves supposedly climb aboard the crawling trains, pull a handbrake to further slow or stop them, then quickly crack open the cars with bolt cutters, throwing whatever they don’t want to the side of the tracks. We may have just accidentally told you how to rob a train.
Anyway… over 100 arrests have been made in the last three months, but the situation is still out of control, with Union Pacific deploying its own police force and trying to figure out how to get drones into the area. The company also blames lenient bail policies for the arrests having such a weak effect, with suspects being released in 24 hours.
A day after Forbes dropped its piece, photojournalist and TACO contributor Mike Ade shot a video of a Union Pacific train that appeared to have been derailed amid the detritus of so many stolen packages in Lincoln Heights, perhaps a result of the amateur engineers’ itchy handbrake fingers. Ade later confirmed the derailment.
Shortly following the derailment, L.A. graffiti legend MAN ONE sounded off on the general abandonment of his neighborhood abutting the tracks on Valley Boulevard. He recounts how money-hungry developers and USC changed his neighborhood with little concern for low-income residents, evicting his neighbors while leaving it to get worse.
Of the train robberies, an angry MAN ONE eloquently writes on Facebook:
For months people have been breaking into freight cars and dumping tons and tons of trash onto the tracks and no one has done a damn thing about it! Not the mayor, not the city council, not the train companies, not the police, NO ONE!! It’s such a derelict of duty by city officials to allow this to happen in a community full of kids and elderly people and of course mostly P.O.C…. It just pisses me off that now it has all lead to a train derailment! It’s like a scene from a dystopian sci fi movie. People’s goods & packages that have been stolen or thrown out & will never reach their destination scattered all over the place. Due to the derailment, trains are going to stop moving through this shipping corridor for days or even weeks, further delaying thousands if not millions of shipments & packages. I see this breakdown of infrastructure & humanity as a microcosm of what’s going on with our society thanks to the external greed and gluttony caused by modern day capitalism…. This is not a political left vs. right issue, it’s an issue of rich vs. poor, govt vs. citizen, power vs. humanity.
What we read next really angered us. Perhaps attempting to make this more of a “left vs. right issue,” a right-wing extremist and former MMA fighter named Mike Ancheta went “live from East L.A.” scouring the tracks for someone to blame. Or possibly worse.
With his face wrapped in an American flag, Ancheta plays cop to “investigate” the scene, looking at the wreckage of Ikea shit, coffeemaker, Japanese butt wipes, and drone boxes thrown to the side of the tracks. In a later video, Ancheta begins tracking who he calls a “not a Black man, but a woman, and a Hispanic man unloading a car.” It’s hard to see anyone on the video, which we caught via the Twitter of anti-fascist journalist and documentary maker Vishal P. Singh.
Fortunately, before Ancheta has the chance to pull some kind of a Rittenhouse, his last video finds him running and seeking refuge on a train, claiming he’s being assaulted with rocks, not typically the preferred weapons of criminal masterminds, nor visible on video. Donning another hat no one has asked him to wear, Ancheta refers to his mission as “investigative journalism.”
Meanwhile, Singh also calls out one “Capitol rioter and Nazi sympathizer Christopher Brow,” who was himself allegedly engaged in filming people emptying the containers. Singh warns, “You should expect to see a lot more right-wing nut jobs engaging in wayward “vigilantism.” And speaking of delusional right-wingers, Joe Rogan later offered his thoughts, reposting a site that is hostile to the homeless.
All of which is to say, the situation surrounding train theft in L.A. threatens to be quickly spiraling, like so many things around here right now, out of control. Cargo thefts continue, confrontations appear imminent, neighbors are freaked out (where they haven’t been displaced) and it’s safe to say… you’re probably never getting your package.