Union Pacific’s Plastic Zip Ties Does Not Deter Train Looters


Videos and images of train tracks strewn with opened packages, flattened cardboard boxes, torn envelopes, and discarded household items are making the rounds online. People are outraged, and not just because their latest $2 shirt purchased from Amazon and shipped straight from China was likely in that shipment. 

The Union Pacific estimates they have lost about $5 million in claims, losses, and damages so far. Much of this loss occurred on the section of tracks that runs through Lincoln Heights, California. The tracks temporarily run below street level in this area, concealing criminal activity from nearby onlookers and providing the perfect cover for train robbers. 

The real issue appears to be train security, though – or, more accurately, a distinct lack thereof. Thieves jump onto slow-moving cars as they pass through this densely populated area, then cut the zip-ties used to close the cargo, and bam – they have easy access to a wide array of goods including electronics, jewelry, clothing, and even COVID tests. 

Some people have suggested that the trains don’t slow down through areas that have proven vulnerable to theft. But, those regions usually overlap with higher populations, and the thought of trains speeding over the tracks where kids might play is unsettling. It does seem like something could be done about the zip-tie situation, though. All a person needs to cut through one of those flimsy pieces of plastic is a knife. It doesn’t even have to be a sharp knife or a strong knife – any type of blade with more of an edge than a butter knife will slice right through. 

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The Union Pacific cites staff reduction as a major contributing factor to the increase of looting. Security personnel isn’t as numerous as it used to be, but surely padlocks are affordable and reliable. If looters had to jump on a slow moving train and operate bolt cutters, it might at least slow down the rate of theft and loss. 

According to a New York Times article, the train robbers are often arrested but quickly released, often due to lack of substantial evidence. If a person is walking near a train tracks holding a brand new skateboard, it’s tough to prove whether he purchased it elsewhere or took it out of a stolen package. So, a culture of repeat robbers has developed. 

But still, surely the Union Pacific has some obligation to protect private property. It seems this would include locking up train cars and their cargo more securely. It’s hard to fully sympathize with a multi-billion dollar company that is aware of a recurring problem, likely has the financial means to rectify it, and chooses to do nothing. 

  1. kathy says

    This is disgusting and the so is the solution of plastic zip ties. How ridiculous! It looks to me that nobody cares if looting is going on.

    1. George says

      This is how stupid California people have become. Don’t have a clue on how to stop looters. Let them die in their disease ridden State clueless..

  2. william says

    why should this be different from the rest of California where you can steal up to $900, with no concern, and if you are not legal, just let the citizens, who work and pay takes, cover your expenses. Just be sure you do not become a good citizen as then you will get screwed.

  3. Kevin H. Criswell says

    It seems sensible that the shipper/owner of the containers should be responsible for securing the container, however news media ie: TV stations have shown thieves with bolt cutters so padlocks may not solve the problem.

  4. j cherry says

    Locks, perhaps? @ 200 cars per train, and 2 cargo boxes per car, that’s 400 locks, at least potentially. On each train, and there are at least several per day. Cars are going to multiple destinations. How to get the keys to the correct destinations? Easy – implement master keys. How to keep master keys out of the hands of organized thieves? I dunno.
    Train guards, with shotguns/buckshot?

  5. Darlene says

    Why should they, we as taxpayers will again foot the bill for these so called underprivileged folk who prefer stealing to working.

  6. George says

    Start shooting the looters…End of Problem idiots.

  7. Human says

    Akin to leaving your car running with the keys in the ignition . If I lock my car in my garage but don’t lock the door to the garage the insurance wouldn’t pay if it were stolen from my garage. I know this for a fact because it’s happened. Seems like logically that insurance companies would eventually either refuse coverage or make rates so exorbitant that the railroad companies would have to make some efforts to “derail” thieves efforts. Why we never hear anything about rising insurance rates for companies doing business in areas with ridiculous non prosecution laws and that in itself is suspicious. Who’s paying for these stolen articles and why doesn’t the policies that enable theft have consequences for those who choose to do business there? The entire woke concept of governance is unsustainable yet nothing seems to change them. Again we see out of touch wealthy policy makers not caring one iota for the plight of law abiding business owners unless they themselves are victims. Then there’s outrage and sabre rattling. It’s truly time that we common hard working non silver spoon Americans begin to hold these entitled pieces of garbage accountable.
    God Bless America

    1. mojo says

      My sentiments exactly. Nothing will happen until we make them pay, monetarily or physically.

  8. John Mallett says

    Try fixing the headline writing also. Zip ties does?

    1. Lowell says

      You really think using zip ties does stop thieves. The headline is correct, the zip-ties strategy does not work!!

  9. Lowell says

    The only thing that will stop them is pain. Electric fencing keeps all manner of critters out of my garden. One inside every container!!

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