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.
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.