Hacker News Re-Imagined

Train burglaries in LA

  • 568 points
  • 12 days ago

  • @r721
  • Created a post

Train burglaries in LA


@rdtsc 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Wonder how organized that looting is. Is just individuals over many months or years, or a large gang over a few weeks time.

On the one hand it’s shocking to see it in LA in US. On the other I am surprised it’s not happening more often.

In large cities, some of my acquaintances had to get PO boxes as their packages kept getting stolen. But why bother wasting time going house to house, when you can hit a whole train car at once.

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@scollet 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

The backing track to this post is Delicate Tendrils.

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@schnitzelstoat 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

People robbing rapid testing kits for the global pandemic from cargo trains entering LA sounds like something from a dystopian cyberpunk novel.

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@adrianmonk 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Comment from someone on Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/s2sjxj/los_angeles_th...):

> It’s not just in LA, theft and vandalism have gone way up on all the rail networks. My company is experiencing some of the worst loss numbers while in rail transit. We just announced that all transport carts will be welded shut and unwelded when it gets to the destination. Even locks aren’t enough.

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@Ansil849 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

I don't really understand what is happening here. Why is the ground completely covered in packages? Do thieves just break into the passing train compartments and start throwing out packages?

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@Nextgrid 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

It is surreal to see this in a country where the police and “justice” system is extremely trigger happy and wants to lock everyone up for any reason they can get away with.

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@soheil 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

This is probably one of the most civilized ways to steal something. It hurts no one and is just a non-discriminatory tax on pretty much everyone in LA since most people order Amazon packages. I think of this like click fraud, a while ago Google decided to stop combatting it and just "let it happen" [1].

It turned out to be a winning strategy.

[1] https://www.zdnet.com/article/google-ceo-on-click-fraud-let-...

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@w_t_payne 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Why is there not CCTV there? CCTV + police follow-up and arrests made seems like a good way to combat this (serious, economically damaging) situation.

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@hownottowrite 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

I wonder how many of these items are being resold on Amazon and Walmart Marketplace.

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@JohnJamesRambo 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Well this explains where my Amazon packages keep going.

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@qwertox 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

How about putting something like an electrical fence around those containers, maybe even just one or two wires, focused on the parts where they get opened. They could also signal when a container has been opened if should they get cut.

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@YeGoblynQueenne 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Please wear one-use gloves when rummaging around in trash? Please? For me?

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@reustle 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙



@Animats 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Where's E. H. Harriman now that we need him?

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@dheera 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Serious question: Have they not thought of mounting Mark Rober-style devices on each freight car that releases some combination of {glitter, fart spray, honey, glue, itch powder, pepper spray, ink}?

It might sound funny but I think the sheer discomfort would deter thieves in an instant, and they would be easy to identify for several days.

A device of this sort would be super useful for car thieves as well.

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@metaphor 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Are other cities that operate major Class I freight rail seeing the same looting issue, or is this just LA/UP "market disruption" that hasn't caught up with the rest of the country?

EDIT: To be sure, I wonder because my city is both HQ and a significant hub for one of those F500 major Class I freight rail operators, but I haven't heard of such brazen exploits happening locally...yet?

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@fblp 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Sigh - Any resourced and competent police or security force should be able to catch or deter thieves that are stealing packages from the same location. Additionally, mail theft laws which include prison as a consequence should be extended to package thefts if they don't already cover them.

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@Cyberthal 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

This is why we can't have nice things.

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@acchow 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

How long before Amazon has their own containers with cameras and defense mechanisms?

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@kepler1 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Do you ever think to yourself that we're gradually headed to some dystopia like in the movie Elysium? Where a growing underclass is relegated to a garbage planet while the elites escape to a satellite world? Or at least parts of our planet?

I'm not even faulting the elites for it really -- how are you, in a non-authoritarian society, supposed to handle when basic services are under attack and can't effectively discipline or enforce law, either because you just can't police enough, people refuse to obey law and order any more, or you're not allowed to use force for political reasons? Or a certain level (or $ amount) of crime is just ok? All you can do is create greater moats around the areas you can protect and see if the underclass can sort itself out.

I see this kind of creeping / boiling the frog effect happening in lots of developments lately. (although I'm sure people of every generation have decried the end of the world too)

Take the Portland (or Oregon?) relaxation of drug penalties, etc. Sure, it only makes sense to stop criminalizing drug use when everyone's doing it and it's loading up your prisons. But you didn't exactly solve the problem. You just found a less bad way to deal with the effects. And you're still on a path where people are using drugs more and more, and the elites flee to their gated communities to let the underclass sort itself out downtown, because it's not "fair" or "equitable" to lock up people for drug use. "We need less policing, more understanding." Eventually you understand yourself all the way into a society that's broken down.

The sad thing is that the people who suffer most from crime and belief that having a system with rules is against them, are the poor and vulnerable.

I don't think our approaches to these problems is working well.

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@wmf 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

I see a lot of people talking about "packages", but UPS/Fedex/USPS don't use trains because they're too slow, right? I assume we're talking about wholesale shipping here.

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@offmycloud 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Huh, I just had a lost Amazon package last week, shipped by UPS. It disappeared somewhere on the way from Nebraska to California.

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@suction 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

This seems like a crime that could be very easily stopped.

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@throwawaysea 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Soft on crime policies like restorative justice simply attract crime. No consequences means no deterrent. It’s not surprising this happens in LA - George Gascon is the DA and he’s facing increasing support for his recall (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/liberal-beverly-hill...).

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@tamaharbor 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Over the past several months I have had more delivery problems with Amazon than ever. Things scheduled, out for delivery, and sometimes ten spots away on a map, just seem to disappear. I wonder if these (and similar) thefts have anything to do with it.

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@2ion 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

The West is on a way to 2nd world status at best, comprised of 1st world enclaves / gated communities where things are in order and a wild 2nd world west.

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@imgabe 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Amazon has already started doing their own shipping. Maybe they'll hire their own mercenaries to guard the shipments too. Eventually they'll replace the government. United States of Amazon. We won't even have to change all our monogrammed stuff.

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@friendlydog 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

They are looking at 20 years if they get caught: 18 U.S. Code section 1991

Additionally they are releasing hazardous materials by breaking open boxes:

18 U.S. Code section 1992

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@cracker_jacks 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

"Air tag" like trackers on decoy packages mixed in might be a cheap solution to this issue.

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@screye 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Kind of related : America Is Falling Apart at the Seams https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/13/opinion/america-falling-a...

A loss of civic sense and cultural criminality are incredibly hard to weed out of a population, once it has taken root. I worry that the a mix of pessimism and a loss of civic sense is sending non-elite America into a death spiral.

Opponents of return-to-normalcy claim that these are temporary and anomalous circumstances as a result of covid. However, a 2 year period of cultural erosion can lead to this regression getting cemented as a modern cultural identity of non-elite US.

Cost-benefit analyses have been ignored in favor of tunnel-visioning on viral outcomes and short term political gain. At the end of this, we might just find ourselves asking "We made it out of this, but at what cost?".

p.s: I am not advocating for any particular policy, just pointing to the absence of any holistic response. That being said, the complete failure of the American response in terms of 'viral outcomes' despite tunnel visioning on it, doesn't inspire confidence in it.

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@King-Aaron 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

> Responsibility for policing the railroad right of way falls on Union Pacific Police... not local agencies like LAPD

So is 'Union Pacific Police' just a security company, or do you guys in the US actually have private businesses with their own police? Because that sounds pretty dystopian

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@Axsuul 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Yes LA is a third world country, please leave.

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@RspecMAuthortah 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Yeah but it is the domestic extremist terrorism that is the real threat to its citizen. Got it.

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@tomohawk 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Crime requires: means, motive, opportunity

The motive for crime is always present, and is mostly held in check by keeping the cost of means and opportunity high.

In this case the opportunity cost is very low. The trains are just sitting there unprotected.

And the means - will just grab a crow bar.

EDIT:

This regulation is well intentioned:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/28101

The good intention is to allow interstate policing of the railsystem. The bad effect is to prevent local law enforcement 'interference'.

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@paganel 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

That's one of the main reasons why driverless lorries will never be a thing. Unless you accompany each one of them by a weaponised mini-drone, Robocop-style, that is.

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@dusted 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

My observation from the comment sections to this post-apocalyptic video is the following: People focusing on how to prevent the theft of these cars, funding police, armed guards on trans, better security.

I think this is an interesting perspective, it's very "American", it's like it has been accepted by these commenters that rampant thievery is a perfectly natural part of life and so, must be worked around rather than solved.

But, protecting a thing from theft, rather than removing the reason thievery is so rampant, just moves the problem to someone else.. Like putting locks and security on your home, "Now they won't break into MY home, because the guy next door has less security, so they'll go at him instead".

Come on, the problem is not that it's easy to steal, the problem is that society has constructed situations for some of its citizens where they for one reason or another do it.

I walked around last year, in an opera house, public building, no one in sight, empty building, unlocked doors, there were paintings on the walls, and I identified audio equipment for at least $10k, and it was not unlocked by mistake. Then it struck me, that we've done well in society when we can have this.

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@dredmorbius 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

I'm reminded of recent realisations in the evolution of whales. The great size and efficiency of whales came about due to increased ocean productivity --- more available food, though often at widely-separated distances, an efficient feeding mechansism (lunge feeding), which could onboard vast quantities of krill in a single act, and the lack of any credible predators, allowing great whales to focus their evolutionary specialisation on long-distance speed and efficiency.

See: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-are-blue-whal...

Similar principles apply to human transportation modes. In particular, safety of routes, for passengers and cargo, is absolutely paramount, and there's little that kills traffic, whether terminal or through-passage, than increased risk.

For rail, the equivalents are continent-spanning cargo operations, efficient freight loading and unloading (particularly via intermodal containerised traffic), and a lack of effective theft or crime operations against the trains and their cargo itself.

The Twitter thread here is strong evidence of a failure of that "no effective predators" requirement. Various supply-chain issues may be changing the calculus on long-distance freight operations and efficiency --- whether cargos decrease in quantity, in value, or in predictability, each of these would decrease operating efficiencies and opportunities. Containerisation is proving to be both a boon and a risk as well, by facilitating theft.

How challenging this might prove for railroads isn't clear, but I see a potentially large risk here.

As John Schreiber's thread notes, law enforcement for railroads is provided by the railroad companies themselves, in one of the first multi-jurisdictional police forces. Historically, railroad cops were more the scourge of hoboes and patrolled freight yards, but they might have to extend operations further if attacks such as these are increasing in frequency.

For those frustrated by Twitter's interface, Threadreader and Nitter links:

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1481770722271760384.html

https://nitter.kavin.rocks/johnschreiber/status/148177072227...

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@mngnt 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

I would expect this kind of pictures from a third world country...

How come no one is incentivized to fix this - protect the trains, prevent this loss of property? Who pays for the stolen goods? I presume it would be the retailers, is it just a drop in the ocean for them?

In some more dystopian movies there were trains crossing vast areas of postapocalyptic hellscape protected by soldiers with machine guns and flamethrowers. In these pictures, the "responsible" just gave up. I find that simiarly dystopic.

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@radu_floricica 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

Having the community police its members can only be done with the proper external incentives to that community. The times in history where clans or family managed their own delinquents where also times where the clan or family as a whole was called to pay for the damage.

What we have here is not a sudden lapse in morals - it's a result of, rather on purpose, individualism. Since the community has nothing to lose or gain, the community just stands aside and looks.

As an aside, this reminds me of gypsy villages in Romania - places where lines of concern between insiders and outsiders are so sharply drawn, that from the outside it looks like complete lawlessness. It's not - it's lawless only if you're an outsider, and that village doesn't care about you.

Social mechanisms can be pretty complex (and fascinating). TBH, rather than trying to figure them out, it might be easier in cases like that to just throw manpower (and cameras) at the problem. But long term - this is where it's very much worth it to have cops work with/as social workers and get embedded in their communities. That this got to where it got speaks volumes about police and citizens there being in a purely adversarial context - otherwise the first old lady to meet a cop 6 months ago would have told him what's going on and who's started it.

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@aronpye 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

LA is turning into District 9

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@glenda 12 days

Replying to @r721 🎙

This is visually shocking, but the sheer amount of money taken from workers by wage theft eclipses this issue completely. Theft is normalized at all levels of American society.

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