Bandits who recently broke into stationary wagons in the second biggest US city also got away with firearms, police say.

There has been a 160 percent increase in convoys' theft in Los Angeles since October 2020, officials say.
There has been a 160 percent increase in convoys' theft in Los Angeles since October 2020, officials say. (AFP Archive)

Dozens of guns have been stolen from freight trains that were recently looted in the US city of Los Angeles, according to local police.

Images of the detritus left behind by thieves who broke into stationary wagons in the middle of the second biggest city in the United States swept around the world this month.

Now the city's top policeman has said that the bandits got away with more than just Amazon packages.

"People were... breaking into these containers and stealing firearms, tens of firearms," Michael Moore told the Police Commission this week.

"That gave us great concern as a source again of further violence in the city."

An AFP news agency team filmed thousands of gutted boxes on the stretch of tracks near the city centre, many from major retailers like Target, and being shipped by carriers including UPS and FedEx.

The thieves wait until the long freight trains stop on the tracks and break the locks with bolt cutters.

They then help themselves to parcels, ditching anything too difficult to sell.

The haul could include anything that moves around the country from or to retailers.

And, the police now say, guns.

Firearms purchased online in the United States cannot legally be shipped to the customer, but can be sent instead to a licensed dealer for pick-up.

Short time, drastic increase

Since December 2020, rail operator Union Pacific (UP), whose convoys are being targeted, has seen a 160 percent increase in thefts in Los Angeles County.

"In October 2021 alone, the increase reaches 356 percent compared to October 2020," the operator said in a letter to local authorities seen by AFP.

The phenomenon was accelerated in the run-up to Christmas, as freight volumes rocketed.

According to figures reported by UP, more than 90 containers were vandalized on average each day in Los Angeles County in the last quarter of 2021.

The operator, which manages nearly 450 kilometres of track in Los Angeles County, puts the cost of the damage incurred over the course of 2021 at about $5 million.

The figure does not include losses to customers affected by the thefts.

Source: AFP