It was more than five years ago, and I had only been in the role of disability policy adviser for a few weeks. I was…
We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info
That infamous heist, in June 1899, was one of the world’s first great train robberies – later immortalised in the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.
Back then, agents from the fabled Pinkerton Detective Agency were on the case, chasing down the Wyoming robbers just as they had hunted other outlaws such as Jesse James, the Dalton Gang and the Younger Brothers, who all targeted trains carrying valuable cargoes between America’s two coasts.
Last week in Los Angeles, with little fanfare and barely noticed by the local media, six agents from the Union Pacific Police Department – modern-day Pinkertons –
They were called in by the “overwhelmed” Los Angeles Police Department to help derail a massive surge in gang attacks on freight trains, which have resulted in a 356 per cent increase in railroad robberies in the past two years.
Figures equate this to the plundering of as many as 90 giant shipping containers every day by gangs of up to 30 members, who “jump” the slow-moving trains on sections of track obscured from public view.
Often the trains are pulling so many freight cars from ports they span more than two miles and regularly come to a complete standstill as they wind past city suburbs.
“The waiting gangs are ready,” says LAPD Captain German Hurtado.
“They rip open the containers and quickly offload merchandise – from giantscreen TVs and other electronics and consumer goods to medical supplies, cash and jewellery.” Amazon and FedEx packages often offer the richest pickings, according to Capt Hurtado – and anything deemed not worth stealing is simply tossed aside on the tracks, leaving trails of debris for miles, as our shocking pictures show.
They were taken in an area of downtown LA where the tracks were lowered in the 1960s to keep the eyesore from public view. “Sixty years on,” says the police chief, “it’s a safe haven and offers concealment for the thieves to pick through, providing them adequate cover.
“This isn’t only a financial supply-anddemand issue. You see mementos of people’s belongings. We found an urn containing someone’s ashes on the track.” It is estimated the train robbers have plundered more than £5million worth of goods and possessions in the past year, but the actual figure could be far higher.
During one raid, Capt Hurtado explained, “A security guard on board… gets a gun pointed at him and he thinks, ‘I’m not going to get killed over this’.”
The robberies are part of a growing crime wave across America, where 17 states have just posted record murder rates for the past year and all violent crimes are on the rise.
Among them, California has also been hit by smash-and-grab gangs pillaging luxury items from high-end retailers in LA and San Francisco.
Frustratingly for Capt Hurtado and his men, however, they have managed to arrest more than 100 train robbers in the act during the past 12 months – only to see every single one walk free, either without being charged or after paying a small fine.
So Capt Hurtado, whose beleaguered division stretches a mere 15 square miles, says he welcomes the arrival of the six Union Pacific railroad agents.
All carry guns and have full inter-state police powers, including the authority to make arrests and book suspects.
The police chief added: “This is a legendary police force, dating back to the 1800s, and our officers are delighted they’re here to curtail this huge crime problem along the tracks. In the Old West, they brought robbers to justice – and I’m sure it will be no different in our era.”
What is happening where you live? Find out by adding your postcode or visit InYourArea
Union Pacific chiefs are anxious to press federal not state charges wherever possible after admitting in a letter to the LA DA’s Office: “Criminals boast to our officers any charge will be pled down to simple trespassing, bearing no serious consequence.
“Without any judicial deterrence or consequence, it is no surprise that over the past year we have witnessed such a significant increase in criminal rail theft.”
Source: Read Full Article