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Train burglaries in LA (twitter.com/johnschreiber)
541 points by r721 2 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 582 comments

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.

In no particular order:

The rich are getting richer faster than the rest of us.

Real wages are stagnant. Social safety nets are constantly being removed.

Labor protections have been being rolled back or enforcement lax since the ATC strike.

Atomization and alienation have taken root.

The mythos of the nuclear family being paramount is fully embedded in the culture, destroying the older concept of a broader family and community taking part in the rearing of the next generation and just general socialization.

We're heading to the failure of multiple systems, including food production and power, due to climate change and the increasing frequency of disastrous weather systems.

"Greed is good" has been a value promulgated by the elites for a few generations now.

Things are getting more expensive faster than wage growth, especially basics and things needed for economic upward mobility (housing, education, healthcare, etc).

Identity politics and wedge issues are dividing people who otherwise have similar interests.

Modern life is anxiety and depression inducing, creating a rise in interpersonal conflict.

Our government is no longer accountable to the people or representative of them in any real way unless you're in the top quintile of wealth/income (and that is generous).

All of these things, and many more, are ripping apart the social contract. People no longer feel invested in the wellbeing of the places in which they reside or the governmental and societal systems they are a part of. Instead, they merely endure them with resentment. This won't end well.

Most places are weak on crime. We have a judge in Minneapolis over the last week:

1. Some guy chased a woman in his car and she ran to a fire station. He crashed into the fire station and fought firefighters. Released 0 bail.

2. Violent criminal with a long past let out of jail to attend funeral and hasn’t returned.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We have constant 0 bail for young carjackers who steal peoples cars for joy rides.

It’s madness. I don’t care what anyone says about “punishment doesn’t deter crime”. That’s against human nature and total horseshit.

The US has a larger share of its population in prison than any other nation, about 6x higher than Canada, Japan and Western Europe.

Is the problem really that too few people are in prison?


We have many criminals.

Criminals deserve punishment, including jail should the crime be severe enough.

Criminals prey on law abiding citizens.

If you won't enforce the law, citizens will take the law into the their own hands.

Then you will be forced to cry for criminals even more than you are doing now.

That is a really simple take on law and human behavior. Are we really going to ignore all of our modern understanding of psychology to say "criminal bad, criminal deserve jail"?

Imprisoning people is treating the symptom, not the cause.

If you don't treat the cause, then you'll just continue getting more symptoms.

Maybe we should figure out what it is about the USA that keeps generating so much more antisocial behavior than everywhere else and fix that.

Yes, if they deserve to be in prison and aren't.

So then the problem is why do more people deserve to be in prison in the US in particular?

Whichever way you cut it, it's bad for society for it to be such a large percentage.

One of reasons of large prison population is long sentences. Shorter sentences with better enforcement can be a better deterrent.

Too few and too many aren't mutually exclusive, it is quite possible that the wrong people are in prison.

This is anecdotal evidence, and should not be taken seriously.

I think some of these things ring true but you missed a few obvious ones, most of this stuff has been going on in California which is being governed into oblivion by its leaders:

- California is getting very soft on crime recently, people now realize they can rob and steal what they want and there are zero consequences for it, this has lead to almost a complete collapse of order in most major california cities(see excessive smash and grabs($1B stolen in a few weeks in LA/SF bay area) and skyrocketing drug use(SF has more addicts than high school students) and homelessness, along with car jackings and robberies). I live in california and my family has been here for over a hundred years so I have seen its rapid deterioration in the past 3-4 years.

- Complete abandonment of any type of positive morality from the media or any leaders.

- Extreme division due to both right and left moving farther from the center.

- Sky high college costs have made things very difficult for people that are in college and those leaving the system are left with life crushing debt.

- Housing and rent are at all time highs due to excessive money printing and over generous govt. handouts the past 1-2 years.

- Jobs are available and are plentiful there are just not enough workers for the positions or qualified people for the higher earning ones, in addition alot of people were making more sitting around getting checks and enhanced unemployment than working at the lower wage positions.

- I traveled to multiple states over the last year(Hawaii, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Oregon) and this stuff is not happening everywhere, its mainly in CA and NYC and other high density urban areas.

> - I traveled to multiple states over the last year(Hawaii, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Oregon) and this stuff is not happening everywhere, its mainly in CA and NYC and other high density urban areas.

You are claiming this isn't happening in those states, but especially New Mexico and Oregon, ... it is definitely happening in those states, so I question your experience with the other ones. Out of those, maybe Utah is not having those problems? Even as an island, Hawaii has had huge problems for decades, perhaps the worst (housing affordability, homelessness, rising crime rate).

> zero consequences

California's incarceration rate is already double or triple that of Canada, Japan or Western Europe.

Because of mandatory minimum sentences keeping people in jail for a long time. Just because that’s a bad policy doesn’t necessarily mean that sending people to jail at all is a bad idea.

>Extreme division due to both right and left moving farther from the center

This says a lot about your position in what you imagine is the 'center'; the reality is that both sides are only moving further right. This has been happening for decades.

>the reality is that both sides are only moving further right. This has been happening for decades.

This is a false statement according to actual studies. Democrats have been moving further left at a higher rate than Republicans have been moving further right. [0] [1]

Before you say this study is outdated and therefore no longer relevant, you need to find a well regarded study that supports your original claim.

[0] http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/201...

[1] https://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/pew-research-c...

The build back better bill was basically the most left bill that’s been introduced with serious consideration in legislature.

> The mythos of the nuclear family being paramount is fully embedded in the culture, destroying the older concept of a broader family and community taking part in the rearing of the next generation and just general socialization.

I think we're past "nuclear family" at this point. Getting married is actively discouraged by our legal system.

True. I certainly am not. Definitely part of Atomization. Large swathes of the country, especially the religious and conservative still buy into this mythos though.

>The mythos of the nuclear family being paramount is fully embedded in the culture, destroying the older concept of a broader family and community taking part in the rearing of the next generation and just general socialization.

It's not a "mythos", it's a fact that children raised in nuclear families have much better outcomes than those who are not [0]. Practically every sociological study confirms this.

Black children are the least likely to be raised in nuclear families in the US, and aligned with the study, are the most likely to suffer from health and mental/emotional/sociological issues.

It's recently become some weird leftist/neo-marxist talking point to subvert the "Western proscribed nuclear family". BLM had to remove this talking point from their website after it was widely criticized [1].

[0] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_246.pdf

[1] https://news.yahoo.com/black-lives-matter-removes-language-1...

We're not talking about the nuclear family in opposition to single parents or blended families. We're talking about it in opposition to extended and clan families. Which is why I explicitly mentioned extended ("broader") families and communities. Obviously having a mom and a dad is good.

Come on dude, use context clues.

>We're talking about it in opposition to extended and clan families.

Which are specifically covered in the CDC report that I listed above.

"Children living in blended (i.e., stepparent), cohabiting, unmarried biological or adoptive, extended, and other families were generally disadvantaged relative to children in nuclear families, and were, for the most part, comparable to children living in single-parent families regarding most health status and access to care measures."

> Which is why I explicitly mentioned extended ("broader") families and communities.

Those "broader" families and communities have unfortunately been failing Black Americans for generations.

>Come on dude, use context clues.

Come on dude, use reading comprehension. At least you admitted here for all to see that you'd rather be a virtue signaler over being a data driven adult.

Again, I was not opposing the nuclear family to families without mothers and fathers. This is a misreading of what I am saying and clearly you are just engaging in the discussion to grind your axe about single parent households in black communities.

As I said, I agree that having a mom and dad is good. It produces better outcomes than having one or neither. Go grind your axe elsewhere.

The rich don't get rich by taking something the poor don't have.

They get richer by taking the productivity gains for themselves and leaving nothing on the table.

Sounds like a description of neoliberalism :)

> are incredibly hard to weed out of a population, once it has taken root.

Is the root of this issue really "in" the population? Or is the population merely responding to a set of external circumstances?

I'm uneasy when someone says something like "weed out of a population." Many dark journeys have started with this idea.

> However, a 2 year period of cultural erosion can lead to this regression getting cemented as a modern cultural identity of non-elite US.

From my perspective, this erosion started showing itself during Occupy Wall Street. Our entire economy was set on fire and very few, if any, people were actually held responsible for that. They were bailed out, and everyone was expected to move on.

If I had a sense that something needed to be "weeded out" of my society, I know that's where I would start.

I wonder how much of this correlates with the drop in religious participation. Religion, for better or worse, was a useful tool for stigmatizing bad behavior and incentivizing good behavior

Do we have any evidence that religion reduces bad behavior? We know some of the most religious countries (Mexico, Syria) are relatively more dangerous than more secular countries like France or China. Is there a better data source to look at here?

You would have to adjust for all external influences. Mexico and Syria are mostly dangerous because of failed USA policies (drug war, war on terror) than their internal cultures

> You would have to adjust for all external influences.

Or you could argue that their internal culture probably due to religion was not strong enough to fight against external influences.

It probably has more to do with poverty really.

> Religion, for better or worse, was a useful tool for stigmatizing bad behavior and incentivizing good behavior

Sweden is one of the least religious countries in Europe, and one of the safest.

That is factually untrue, in the last decade;

"Approximately 13 percent of the population in Sweden experience problems in their own residential area with crime, violence or vandalism. It is one of the highest proportions in Europe."


I think it has to do with a purpose that religion served = values core to the identity of everyone in the nation.

Modern America has no common history. America has no common ethnicity, no common roots and now no common religion. The least religious nations are often ethnically homogeneous (Sweden, Korea) or have an incredibly strong national cultural identity of what it means to belong (France, Singapore).The US had neither, and then took down the one thing that held together 80% of the US as of 2000. ie. Christianity (mostly protestant-derived)

And I'm a Hindu-by-birth Atheist immigrant. So, I don't have any vested interest in the restoration of Europe-derived Christianity within the US.

To me, the closest thing to a common american identity is a combination of the following 3:

* Protestant values of hard work, merit and family

* Colorblind-live-and-let-live immigrant melting pot

* Capitalistic enterprising nature of shooting for the moon and that anyone can be a billionaire/President.

Now, these might not be perfect, but it was the closest thing to national values that 80% could get buy in on.

However, populist politics of the last 10 years and the change in wealth distribution post 2000 has seen wholesale rejection of almost all of these values from both the populist left and the populist right. As the nation continues fracturing, the resentment towards your fellow countrymen grows to the point that you feel no civic duty towards your fellow countrymen, and maybe even take joy in looting them.

Religion unites as long as it is homogeneous. High level of religious beliefs would not help much, if they didn't unify people through a collective identity. So in this case, high levels of religious participation would not have helped, because there would still never be any agreement on a common religious identity given the degree of religious heterogeneity.

On an aside, I always find it funny when people say that countries that tolerate heterogenous identities such as the US or India are discriminatory or racist. Yeah, as if you with your 95+% cultural/religious/ethnic homogeneity have any right to speak about diversity. You can already see Europe coming apart at its seams with a small influx of culturally diverse middle-eastern refugees. The friction you see, is a result of an open system that allows each of these incompatible cultural identities to get a voice in the national discourse.

> Religion unites as long as it is homogeneous.

Hindus in India divide and fight amongst themselves based on caste even though they all follow the same religion.

America's always been a "credo" nation, and has always been pretty explicit about what its credo is. "We hold these truths to be self evident; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

In other words: freedom, equality, justice, democracy, and self-determination.

America's relationship with religion has always been complex. The first amendment simultaneously guarantees the free practice of religion and enshrines its separation from the state; as a government, the U.S. cannot make any law that preferences a particular religion. Many of the founders were Deists, which is a religion that simultaneously accepts the existence of God but also relies upon empiricism, rationality, and individual thought to divine His will. America is also explicitly not Protestant, and the dominant religion varies a lot from place to place. I grew up in New England, which has a Puritan early history but now is populated by largely Catholic Irish & Italian immigrants. My mom's childhood friends in NYC all seemed to be Jewish. In Utah, it's mostly Mormon.

I'd argue that the main reason America is falling apart is that we've forgotten those core values of liberty, equality, justice, democracy, and self-determination. These have always existed in some tension, but right now we're not doing a particularly good job of any of them. Instead the focus is on capitalism, virtue-signalling, protection from outsiders, preferencing your in-group, forcing your particular morality on others, and many other very human but very un-American activities.

Outrageous behavior is being glorified because it drives clicks.

So many of these Alex Jones wannabe 'anti-maskers invade a store protesters', schoolboard meeting ravers get publicized because they get people fired up and drive clicks and ad revenue.

It's normalizing that the way to handle disagreement is to act out.

I'm sorry to say that this onslaught of terrible behavior isn't because people are tired of lockdowns, it's because it's great for driving ad traffic & getting $ from voters.

And that ... Theory about the lockdowns supposedly not being because of the virus but to hide a larger financial crisis/weath reallocation is spreading quite quickly at least at far as I can tell. That's not going to reduce tensions in that regard, that's for sure.

There is only circumstantial evidence but the story sounds plausible. If things continue like this, I'd wager that trump will return in 24

Do you have a source for this? We’re seeing similar things in my country and I’d love to understand why (and how we can make it go away) a little more

There’s another explanation that I find fits better: that the last ~70 years have been an extraordinary confluence of good luck and peak resource extraction that is no longer viable going forward. Scarcity was always going to become a thing again, and Covid pulled that crash forward by a decade.

There’s no stuffing the genie back in the bottle now. We’re going to be paying the price for the corporate excess of the 90s, 2000s and 2010s for the next few decades in the form of climate change, disinformation, authoritarianism and the ensuing civil unrest. Thanks to the combination of the last three we will continue to be unable to muster a coherent response to any problem going forward.

Maybe we can have some good times again eventually, but the next decade or two are going to be rough.

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.

Just the next iteration of bike theft.

Same tools, bigger rewards.

Of course, we did nothing when it was just bikes being stolen because it was just hippy car-free bike riders impacted.

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

Lacks autonomous armed drones swarming around the train, "disencouraging" anyone who doesn't belong there to stay off the tracks.

I'm fairly certain the FAA is the only things preventing their use. They're already being deployed in India: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/western-railways-to-use-surv...

Except they're not armed... yet.


Why do I feel like this would be the simplest solution to this problem, and in fact so simple it's likely to occur in the next few years...

...okay, reality check, even if the autopilots get good enough, it'll still be incredibly easy to whack a drone into the train's overhead wires if you have a big enough stick, and now they potentially have to fix the cable, or maybe a blown transformer. Right.

There are no overhead wires there. That's all Diesel-powered. Like most, or all freight tracks anyways? Maybe on the east coast, when shared with AMTRAK, or some local passenger network, if at all. Besides that, personally I wouldn't want to use any long sticks near any overhead wires. Brrrz, Brrrz, Brrrz

Reality check would be that the engines, or a 'caboose' would make an ideal drone carrier where they can reload. They'd also be the perfect beacon to follow, the same way tracks are laid out in very regular patterns. Anything which doesn't belong there?


I'd call them TrackBlastR.

How do you wack a flying drone? If it's in danger of hitting wires it can just fly higher? And how do you wield or even carry a 50m (150ft) or longer stick?. Do you mean shoot it down?

To be entirely honest I didn't think the scenario through. I was just thinking about the dystopian cyberpunk "that would be mad" of drones hanging around people trying to steal stuff from trains and didn't really envision what would really happen next.

Now I actually think about it (thanks), what would a drone be doing? Yelling really loudly? Getting footage of people's faces?

It's probably only a matter of time until drones end up equipped with taser units :/ (I honestly don't want to be around when they can actually shoot things...), but besides that I now realize they wouldn't really present a legitimate threat (yet). They'd just be very oversized mosquitoes.

I'd completely forgotten this is America though, where people can and do shoot at stuff they don't like and/or is annoying. That would be significantly more effective than a giant baseball bat (which would definitely look hilarious but be a lot less precise).

How about paintballing the perpetrators with NEON-GLITTER, laced with something extremely stinky?

Or Napalm?

Noooo, that sounds awesome ;_; I really want to go build that :( (the non-napalm version)

FWIW it looks like a bunch of Russians had similar ideas 5 years ago and bolted a paintball gun to a drone (apparently with automatic targeting too): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8igjcW39T4k


Äxzällänt Äxikyushn!


Why bother with the complexity of drones when you could add armored “defense” weapons to the sides of the railcars themselves?

Seems like we are closer to "Demolition Man" to me than "Escape from LA"...but the year is just starting :)

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.

Bingo. 'The community' ultimately does not own what's on the train. There is no communal interest in protecting the goods on the train; there may be an element of self preservation ("If the train is robbed, I can't buy the goods later!"), but there is little sense of communal preservation in a society that promotes individualism. The same thing applies to the thieves- anti-collective behavior is inevitable in a society that does not meet the needs of every individual.

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?

Its hard to say with just anecdotes, but this random person says it's not just Los Angeles. Another commenter mentioned a conductor-friend out of Louisiana is seeing similar things.


I wonder if this is an evolution of the security cat & mouse game with shipping switching to have more random items people ordered directly to their home? Similar to porch-pirates being more of an issue today than 30 years ago.

Containers carrying lots of packages headed directly to homes is new.

Before, if you broke into a container, you'd often find weird homogenous B2B stuff. Like a bunch of dog food.

>Before, if you broke into a container, you'd often find weird homogenous B2B stuff. Like a bunch of dog food.

but presumably the volume of b2c stuff being shipped over rail hasn't changed? after all, the b2c stuff has to get to customers somehow. Maybe a random assortment makes it a more attractive target due to the skinner box effect (ie. lootboxes).

If you open up a container going to a Walmart warehouse, it might be filled with massive blocks of bulky items of dubious fence value and can be difficult to dig to anything good. Even if you get something "good", having 30 pairs of Beats headphones isn't so personally useful or easy to unload for cash. And it's probably in a massive box that isn't easy to move and isn't easy to determine the contents of compared to others.

If you open up a container of UPS shipments, and you grab one random bag out of there-- there will be valuable consumer goods in it.

> having 30 pairs of Beats headphones isn't so personally useful or easy to unload for cash

Why would that be hard? eBay, craigslist, Facebook groups, and other platforms exist which can be used to facilitate the quick and easy offloading of stolen goods.

Instead of some number of Amazon packages with unknown contents going missing, cops and the recipient immediately know that $8k of headphones were stolen. It's obviously over the threshold of grand theft. Etc.

And then if anyone is poking around at secondary markets, you have a massive number of item X showing up new-in-box grey market in a zip code where a bunch of that item was stolen.

Compare to having 20 random consumer items, all stolen from different end-recipients. It's hard for any authority to know these items were stolen. It's hard to establish you stole them or were knowingly receiving stolen property. Even if they surmise that they're probably stolen, as far as they know you could have committed petty theft several times at unknown places.

I agree it's probably easier to fence individual stolen items.

OTOH, I think your argument assumes criminals are lacking creativity... and that the police care and/or have the resources to track $8K worth of headphones. If $8K of headphones are stolen, how many % of total headphones sold on eBay/CL/FB/etc. per month is that? Also, who says they have to offload all the headphones immediately? What's to prevent a "criminal network" or a single person from creating 20 different eBay accounts, each selling one pair - location: obviously not near where they were stolen from. Repeat process once per x months or just wait a few months until the heat is lower. Or perhaps pass the headphones on to a larger "criminal network" who can resell them all over the US. Also on eBay one could just say "shipping from northern California" when in fact they are located in Southern California - who will verify that? Also you could take a few pair to pawn shops... some might even take multiple pairs at once. Also someone could gift a bunch to friends/family. I'm sure there are tons of tricks criminals use to offload stolen goods.

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.

The thread notes that the area had been cleaned up 30 days ago. So the litter is from very recent and regular activity.

It seems pretty organized on the backend distribution. [1]

"Video from a police stakeout shows Drago unloading trunkloads full of merchandise at one of his warehouses — mouthwash, cleaning supplies, shampoo, foot spray, over-the-counter medicine, and more than $1 million dollars worth of razors. Drago allegedly directs the boosters to steal small, compact items, with long expiration dates, and high resale value."

To add another dimension of irony if there's a similar pattern to the CVS/Walgreens shoplifting distribution mechanisms - the main distribution back into the system is Amazon and E-bay, etc.

"The stolen goods eventually find their way to Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Amazon, where they are sold at a steep discount. Dugan says there’s a big societal cost to saving a few bucks."

So in this case, Amazon stuff is getting pilfered only to back into Amazon to be sold as Amazon marketplace items - no questions asked.

[1] https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2020/10/06/major-san-franc...

When I was in jail I met dozens of people who have done this. None of it was organized that I was aware of, it was just opportunistic. Some friends would get together and say "Let's go wait for a train and bust open some containers." There are literally thousands of places where it is possible to do this.

When I was a kid, the train conductors would shoot salt rounds at us from their shotguns. I guess that's not the case anymore?

They do not. Also as the industry has moved toward Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) which allows for running trains that are much much longer than they used to be (up to 2 miles+) with much less staffing. So even if there was someone to do this (and there isn't; conductors are busy with other things), they'll have a lot of train to cover.

But if it’s so simple, how does it not become competitive? And if it’s so opportunistic, how does it not become organized?

Excellent questions. Perhaps because the people were in jail with me and were clearly regularly getting caught and prosecuted led to any fledgling ideas of organization being disrupted?

I wonder if it's organized or just like kids in a candy store. There's so much to steal, I wonder if there's need for conflict or management.

I can see that, yeah. I imagine them, after all the adrenaline dies down, sitting around the fire, swapping stories and bartering —- “two epi pens for that golf club?”. Some staring into the distance, wondering about their life choices after ending up with four identical waffle makers.

Both, probably.

I was wondering the same thing about seeing the aerial footage in the Twitter thread.

I don’t even know that amount of stuff could be opened, filtered for valuables, and transported within a few hours time without dozens of people and some mid-size cargo trucks.

This seems like enough organized logistic planning that a bunch of homeless people or youth gangs would not be able to pull off at this level.

It’s minimally above bike theft. Same tools. If the train goes slow enough/stops, start cracking open containers and throw as much on the ground as you can while you can.

Then sift through it for the next hours.

It’s not the LAPD’s role to get involved with this, but instead this responsibility falls upon special agents dedicated to these train lines. Their HQ is in Omaha Nebraska.

Does LAPD have zero jurisdiction on rail lines that have their own private police?

Or is it a case of “well, someone else could deal with it, so we’re out”?

In California, all peace officers have statewide authority, but generally won't be tasked with action outside of where there agency has primary responsibility, except for pursuit or formally-requested mutual aid.

There is almost certainly an organized crime element interacting with the individuals performing the looting. Typically, the organized elements are at the "fencing" level, where they are paying the individuals (almost certainly mostly drug addicts) small fractions of the resale value for various items in cash/drugs.

This is a standard pattern in areas with lax law enforcement, which these days is all of California, and also places like Manhattan. Political leaders in the LA, SF, Manhattan areas have bought into the Bolshevik era explanation of crime being caused by social injustice, and therefore see criminals as victims of a corrupt society rife with inequality. This kind of chaos is an inevitable result. Treating criminals like hapless victims acting out of desperation ignores the fact that many have agency, are intelligent, and make cost/benefit calculations that completely change when they know they won't get prosecuted if they are caught.

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:



It also reminds me of certain episodes of the The History of Rome and The History of Byzantium podcasts where they depict the collapse of complex systems when the breakdown of security occurred.

During times when Roman security was good - the economy could develop complex systems of trade, which developed coinage, mathematics, architecture, and all sorts of specialists and artisans.

When security was no longer reliable due to the influx of raiders, piracy, and hoards of barbarians, all of those complex activities ceased.

The most complex aspects of society are always the first to collapse when security disappears.

...and eventually a "fend for yourself" attitude permeates society - which becomes a feedback loop, and it's no longer the externalities that are destroying security - but internal actors.

We were lucky to have a safe and stable society for so long that we are shocked to see mass looting. Once it's gone though, it is takes generations to rebuild that.

Pretty much that.

For further parallels with Rome, I strongly advise Kyle Harper's The Fate of Rome, which develops the idea that empires and diseases co-evolve with one another. Another lesson from history which seems increasingly significant now.

> hoards of barbarians

you mean the citizens of neighbouring states (mainly nowadays france and germany) that refused to be colonized/enslaved?

Throughout most of history, any given culture was prone to call any surrounding culture "barbarians", or equivalent terms. The meaning was more akin to "foreigner", though there were also often connotations of ethnic or nationalistic superiority.

This was the case amongst the Romans, previously the Greeks, also Persians and other tribes and cultures of the Middle East / Western Asia. And similarly in China.

Nationalistic identity and senses of superiorty may be wholly unjustified on factual basis, and I tend to think that they are unjustified myself. They're also highly prevalent across times and cultures until quite recent times.

This is only partially accurate. The Romans and Persian, for example, did not consider the other, barbarians. Same between the Greeks/Egyptians/Carthaginians/Jews/etc...

What defined a "barbarian" group was that they we undeveloped scattered tribes - without central political power. They usually lacked written codified laws, formal political assembly, ambassadors, etc...

The Gauls, the Celts, the Germanic tribes, the Turkic tribes, etc... They all were considered "barbarians" because of their tribal community focused political structure. Few centralized buildings existed, lower literacy rates, etc...

These differences were very apparent when a soldier would leave from Rome or Constantinople, and then find himself conquering a Gaulic settlement where the biggest buildings were still made of wood.

Of course, as the centuries went on, these tribal communities became more and more centralize and organized until those differences disappeared.

The Greeks used the term barbarian for all non-Greek-speaking peoples, including the Egyptians, Persians, Medes and Phoenicians, emphasizing their otherness. According to Greek writers, this was because the language they spoke sounded to Greeks like gibberish represented by the sounds "bar..bar..;" the alleged root of the word βάρβαρος, which is an echomimetic or onomatopoeic word. In various occasions, the term was also used by Greeks, especially the Athenians, to deride other Greek tribes and states (such as Epirotes, Eleans, Macedonians, Boeotians and Aeolic-speakers) and also fellow Athenians in a pejorative and politically motivated manner.


Except for the “citizens” and the “states” bits and quite often without the “neighbouring” or the “colonized/enslaves” aspects either.

No, I mean literally hoards of barbarians from as far away as East of the Ural mountains.

The Huns, for example, were not neighboring peoples. They were hoards of horse archers that came from, literally, a thousand miles beyond the Roman border to pillage.

Their destruction of the Roman borders is what drove other Germanic tribes to flee west, further destroying Roman stability.

Citizen in Roman times meant something else than today. Also barbarians (Visigoths) ransacked Rome in 410.

IIRC, the earliest Rus strong men were Vikings bought off by Byzantine emperors, changing them from raiders into gatekeepers.

Also: 22 Are Arrested in Thefts Of Kennedy Airport Cargo


Those trains must be stalled there for long periods of time. I can't imagine they're robbing moving trains, but I could be wrong as thieves often prove to be very resourceful

> I can't imagine they're robbing moving trains


Just rewatched this. Probably the best scene of the season.

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?

The trains are forced to stop at this accessible location sometimes, just outside the rail yard. They don’t stop for long, so the strategy is to hop on, cut a container open, and throw as much stuff to the ground as you can before the train starts moving again. Then you hop down and look through your spoils for items of value.

Hint: look for “lithium ion battery device inside” warning labels.

So if the train cars, or the containers thee packages are kept in within the train cars, were at least so secure that they prevented access for say an hour or two, then this likely wouldn't happen?

What is this, open crates or sacks of packages, in traincars locked with a small padlock?

Padlocks are easy to cut, a bigger padlock just needs a bigger tool. Some companies apparently start welding their containers shut, which raises the bar for thieves significantly (now they need a grinder and more time).

Battery powered grinders being the hot new thing.

Been used in bike theft for 10+ years.

A battery-powered bolt cutter is pretty powerful. Containers are no bank safes because that would make them too heavy and most places are not as lawless as this.

> What is this, open crates or sacks of packages, in traincars locked with a small padlock?

Yes, pretty much. Although in many cases it’s not even a padlock, just a tamper-evident seal device with a serial number matching the paperwork for that container:


For huge cargo firms handling tens of thousands of containers daily, padlocks can be problematic operationally and quite expensive.

The trains come to a stop from time to time. They break in to a container and throw as much as they can to the ground before the train continues.

Once the train is moving again, they go through all the packages on the ground looking for things of value.

So the thieves just lurk around the area, waiting for trains to come to a pause, and then break open the containers, I guess the containers are not very secure? And there's minimal patrols? It just seems like extraordinary 'easy pickings'.

Turns out it's pretty tricky to make a padlock secure against bolt cutters. Of course improving the security of the lock would soon lead to thieves cutting off the locking bars on the container instead.

It doesn't have to be the lock that's secured. What about a hinge mechanism which takes a programmable amount of time to open the container door? If it takes 10 minutes for the door to open, the lock doesn't matter as much, since the thieves have a very limited amount of time before the trains start moving again, apparently.

Those are standardized containers standardized which are made in the millions as cheap as possible. That stuff needs to work, think of all the means of transport where it is used (vessels, trains, aircraft), be accessible for inspections (customs) and so on. The costs to secure and upgrade the containers for the whole system is probably a lot higher than accepting a small percentage of stolen parcel.

Way too complicated. Apparently shippers are opting to start just welding the door shut and unwelding it at the destination.

That sounds like it could be quite error prone. If it's electronic, what about power failures? If mechanical, sounds like lots of intricate machined parts which will wear down over time.

Time locks have been around for more than 100 years, I'm pretty confident that if something like this was desired by the powers that be, it would have been implemented. What I'm assuming is stopping it aren't the engineering challenges, but the fact that currently it's cheaper to let the thefts happen than it is to mitigate them.

I wonder what the cost of engineering secure containers would be vs. addressing the societal problems in the USA that lead to situations like this would be.

I guess you could apply some of the same solutions used in refrigerated shipping containers for power redundancy.

Containers are secure in the sense that you can tell when you receive them whether someone has been inside them (and had the opportunity to change their contents). They are not secure in the sense that they prevent people from entering them.

so .. tamper-evident but not tamper-proof?

Correct. I think the main reason is that this "security" is geared more around Customs & Border enforcement than anything else.

It helps with customs, but it's a big deal for private businesses too. Before containers, you effectively had to have one trusted person's eyes on the cargo at all time -- and still people along the way lightened the load as they handled the stuff. It was almost considered part of the compensation for a longshoreman.

With tamper-evident containers, you have a trusted person watch the container being loaded and locked, and then a trusted person watch as its unloaded at its final destination, and you don't have to care what happens at every point in between.

Makes sense. 99% of what I know about container shipping comes from the movie Contraband and Season 2 of The Wire. ;)

They open things up, take what they want, and dispose of the rest.

This seems like a problem that armed guards would fix pretty quickly.

Maybe. Or you just up the stakes and now you have thieves with automatic weapons having a gunfight with the train guards.

The stakes remain unchanged, because the stakes are the packages.

Since there can't be that much profit in this activity, I think it's reasonable to assume that a lot of the people responsible are doing it just because it's easy.

Don't think you would want to be walking around with someone else's package. Taking just the item gives some plausible deniability and there is probably no way to find the actual package that an item was taken from at that scale.

Yeah, that's exactly what they do, and they open the packages right there on the side of the tracks and take anything that's valuable inside.

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.

US is a big place. That means it's possible to get a steady stream of stories of innocent people getting arrested/killed by the police, and have jurisdictions that turn a blind eye to property crime.

It is funny to see comments like these in this thread. After the events of the last few years, I guess Americans are finding out what it is like to be Indian on the internet and having to defend every piece of crazy news about the country. Note, I am not advocating for news like this to not be published, just remember that countries without even a semblance of a free press are going to report a lot fewer of these.

This is in LA.

Having lived in LA once and escaped, I can fully support this comment with "no further explanation needed"

They're two aspects of the exact same problem. Stopping and prosecuting real crime, while preserving the rights of the innocent, is a very difficult job. When police are criticized for failure in one aspect, they respond by closing ranks and doing even less of the other aspect. Criticize the level of crime and they respond by finding some easy targets to round up and pin charges on. Criticize their overreach, and they respond with a working strike and lawless police riots.

Succumbing to individual incentives, it's easier to focus on easier-to-handle perps and conduct organized militaryesque "operations"... just like it's easier to run roughshod over the rights of the accused by assuming they're guilty and doling out extrajudicial punishment. Neither one means doing their job better.

Ultimately it's a complete failure of accountability. Accountability of police organizations to their employers, the community, to effectively do what they are deputized to do. As well as the failure to bind police under the overarching law, both civil and criminal, like everyone else. The problem is not deep set and everywhere, but rather distributed because we're only seeing the cherry picked worst examples of both sides. But we need to seriously up our systems of accountability if anybody is going to have any faith in our institutions going forward.

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.

Raising children to respect the rule of law used to be considered important. Now many would consider it brainwashing.

Depends where you’re from, what media you let consume you or not, what social pressures you give into without rational basis.

Yes, I think this very often. In fact, I think it is an inevitable future evolution of society. It will likely start out with the oceans - private islands and super yachts are being rapidly built and purchased by elites around the world.

If you're a pleb, like me, I think the best bet is to just hunker down, keep your head down, stay away from mentally ill types, and focus on getting very good at a useful skill. The elite will still need software engineers to build out the dystopia.

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

Made me think of this horrible vision: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metalhead_(Black_Mirror)

As soon as the shrinkage exceeds the cost of those security measures. Security is a business problem.

I can imagine automatically aimed and fired machine guns, all powered by Alexa of course :)

Yeah, sounds like a failed state if you ask me

Absolutely; failed in maintaining a monopoly on violence.

> 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


Railroads emerged at a time when the only significant national law-enforcement entity would have been the military or US Marshall's service. (There were some customs and coast guard operations, also the postal police dating to 1772, before the United States declared their independence from England.)

Railroads operated across town or city, county, and state boundaries. They had a highly distinctive geography --- the linear alignment of tracks. And multi-jurisdictional law enforcement with competing interests would have been (and remains) problematic.

So railroads provided (or contracted, often through the infamous Pinkerton Agency) their own security serivce. Many railroad police have full law-enforcement police and arrest powers.

Note that there are other businesses and operations with some similar capabilities. A ship's captain traditionally had extraordinary powers when at sea, many hotels have or had house detectives, the US Postal Service as noted has its inspector service, and US Marshalls provide security aboard aircraft, though with partial coverage. Their presence and function received heightened awareness after the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

> Railroad police are certified state law enforcement officers with investigative and arrest powers both on and off railroad property in most states. They also have interstate law enforcement authority pursuant to federal law.

> The railroad police force dates to the mid-1800s, when the number of U.S. Marshals was insufficient to police America's growing rail network. Members were called Pinkertons, named after their originator, Alan Pinkerton. Today, each Class I railroad employs Special Agents across the country to protect America’s rail network.


It's just police who are probably paid by that business. That makes sense to me for a large business like this. If anything they're not doing a good enough job here.

Thanks for that. We have railroad police here in Australia as well, however it's all state government sponsored, I just hadn't heard of private enterprise funding police before.

We have them at colleges too. Sometimes you want full time real police who can send people to jail. I guess it depends on the environment and scale of crime to determine whether it's needed. If it is, then it may make sense to have the impacted business pay for it. Otherwise the city might not be able to commit enough resources.

Recall, if you will, that the rail lines are privately owned here. So you have privately owned trains, running on privately owned tracks that are on privately owned land ... it's not entirely clear what the legal framework for government police authority to take effect here is, at least not if you're concerned about the wierdness that would result from just saying "interstate commerce, put the FBI on it".

Us and those wild Canadians up North too https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Pacific_Police_Serv....

It is crazy here, what can I tell ya ;-)

Funny I thought usually things feel more dystopian when the government is the one exerting the force or control. In this case it’s your perception that government law enforcement is routine where as private security firms are dystopian?

A state run police force I am forced to pay for that has qualified immunity sounds a lot more dystopian to me than a private security firm a company hires to protect its business infrastructure.

Lots of grey areas. But transportation and commerce affect everybody, and because there's big ticket issues at risk it becomes a political and practical priority.

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

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

likely not, see https://www.popehat.com/2013/02/05/crime-whale-sushi-sentenc...

It leaves out the important information, what does whale sushi taste like. Interesting to know, though these inconsistencies between cases, and time seem rife for popularity and crony "justice". We like group X so they get 6 months we hate group Y so 20 years for them. There is a reason I became a programmer not a lawyer. Deterministic code is easier than subjective rulings at least for me.

>these inconsistencies between cases, and time seem rife for popularity and crony "justice".

The sentencing guidelines I mentioned seems specifically designed to mitigate this issue?

>We like group X so they get 6 months we hate group Y so 20 years for them. There is a reason I became a programmer not a lawyer. Deterministic code is easier than subjective rulings at least for me.

The sentencing guidelines seem pretty deterministic to me. There's a bunch of factors. The factors add up to a certain amount of points, and the amount of points determines your sentence to within a fairly narrow band. It's certainly not the "6 months for one group and 20 years for another group" that you talk about.

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.

You need a District Attorney willing to actively go after these kinds of suspects. In my experience the police don't really do anything about thefts unless they happen to catch the perpetrator in the act. My family had our car stolen from our driveway and they did virtually nothing to try and recover it. In fact, the only reason why we got it back was because the tweaker who stole it managed to park it in a reserved stall on private property and it was towed. The police said they swept the car for evidence, but we found multiple prescription bottles with the suspect's name on it in easy to reach places. The cops obviously missed this and refused to accept it as evidence. We did a LexisNexus search of the name on the bottle and lo-and-behold, multiple priors for armed robbery and auto theft. No charges were ever filed against the person.

So I have virtually no faith in security cameras. They do their jobs, but the DA certainly doesn't.

I don’t necessarily disagree with you about the DA, but it seems like in your specific case the problem is more that the police themselves are acting indifferently.

CCTV in an age of universal and accepted mask-wearing is pretty ineffective. I have video of people breaking into my business and stealing five figures worth of goods a few years back with specific identification of them, forwarded to the police, who have done nothing with it. Non-violent crimes (specifically property damage or theft) just aren't prosecuted, especially on the west coast.

If you want video, here is one from the Chicago trainyard: https://twitter.com/ronmilnerboodle/status/14817774032529448...

Its not that this is hard or impossible to solve.

It's LA, they don't care.

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.

Snow Crash is looking more and more likely.

You are describing the rise of the East India Company!

You might want to look at their flag - might seem oddly familiar.

Mercenaries? I doubt it. Cheap rent-a-cops to burn in a hire & fire way, like their fulfilment center slaves seems more likely.

Which after a while leads to enough people knowing about their ways, and enables easy sabotage :-)

poor ppl getting shot by underpaid security for trying to steal a box of stupid stuff which the rich kids that ordered it have already forgotten about ...

can totally see this dystopia

if they do it the way they did AWS it'll be amazing

Like 'I would like 1 minute of private security while I walk up this alley'? 'How many times can I walk it on the free tier?'

Until you forget to dismiss your security detail and get a 600k$ charge on your AmazoCard at the end of the month.

Makes me wonder what the equivalent to the free micro instance would be.

I know folks building their data centers around the DC/VA region and I hear funny things.

It will all be Brawndo soon. Prophet Judge foretold it.

Idiocracy was not meant to be a documentary.

Yes LA is a third world country, please leave.

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

In USA, railroad police have jurisdiction in this scenario. Uniquely, in USA, railroad police are employed by the railroad.

As evidenced by current BNSF strike, USA railroads presently have a tough relationship with their labor force.

For an underpaid and overstressed railroad cop, do they want to risk their life to try to stop this? My guess is generally no. They may even desire a cut of the proceeds.

>Uniquely, in USA, railroad police are employed by the railroad.

No, not uniquely. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_Police_(Poland) It's an unit managed by the rail track operator.

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

It's all very well organized. The initial thieves operate in gangs that pull as much off the train as possible and throw it to the ground.

The collectors below look for (ie. boxes that have a lithium/ion battery warning on them), and they break open those boxes and remove those goods.

Those high value goods are then sold to a fencer who will list them online as new from a 3rd party seller.

The remaining lower value goods are then picked over by other community members.

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.

Containers are metal. Just electrify the whole thing!

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.


This regulation is well intentioned:


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

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

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...).

How do reconcile that view with this just... Not happening in other countries with much softer policing?

I’ve read that the magnitude of punishment has less of a deterrent effect on crime compared to the certainty of receiving punishment at all. Softer consequences that you will probably face, as in parts of Europe, are different from harder (on paper) consequences that you will likely escape under a progressive prosecutor in the US. See the Chicago, San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Baltimore DAs for examples of this.

Edit: And don’t confuse American police/law enforcement, who are often harsh to say the least, with the legal arm of the criminal justice system. In many US cities the two are often at odds, as lax prosecutors and DAs release criminals almost as soon as police apprehend them. The Washington DC Chief of Police in particular complained about this recently.

How the heck is crime attractive? Why are you not attracted to this crime? Why am I not attracted to it as I sit working from home for a tech company?

I don't think crime is attractive, it isn't something that people want to do in a developed society. There are plenty of crimes I can commits and get away with but I am not attracted to doing them.

This is not LAPD responsibility, and the HQ of the responsible force is in Omaha Nebraska.

It's still a consequence of general lack of policing or soft policing. Whether this is LAPDs responsibility or not, the overall society and its view on crime like this is a huge component to this occurring. We can't have nice things if people are just going around and stealing because "hey it doesn't hurt anyone".

Are the police notoriously soft in other broken states like South Africa? I don't think so - the intensity of policing seems poorly correlated to outcomes to me.

I despair every day at America's descent into a failed state. Is no one watching?

Apparently this is under the jurisdiction of the railroad police, not LAPD. Not clear to me what jurisdiction that falls under but sounds like it might be federal.

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.

What difference would a driver do? A driver is instructed to not interefere if robbed. The difference I suppose is that what would otherwise be a robbery could be a mere burglary which could have less legal risk as well as less risk of violence (In the case a driver interferes, against his instructions)

It won't be just "one" driver, it would more of them, as in the lorries are usually stopped where other lorries are also stopped (at lorry-specific parking spots, for example) and as such it would be harder for the robbers to confront an "united" (for lack of a better word) pack of drivers. Granted, robberies (and even murders [1]) still happen in those circumstances, too, but give the robbers unattended merchandise sitting by the roadside and then see what will happen.

[1] https://www.digi24.ro/stiri/externe/mapamond/au-fost-arestat...

I think the deterrence from human drivers comes probably (hopefully) more from the risk of being detected, than from the risk of being stopped. Self driving vehicles would of course lack the human element. But on the other hand - they might not need to stop for rest like human drivers do.

That's more for the driver's own safety, as the burglars could have lethal weapons.

If it were autonomous it could defend itself and its contents without risk to humans. At the very least with fart spray, pepper spray, itch powder, and the like.

But it doesn't stop us from using trains that get broken into? I doubt it is an important reason. Plus, driverless lorry can just keep on driving to their destination or a safe refueling yard.

Nah. Train robberies have been a thing since shortly after trains were invented, no matter if staff or sometimes even armed guards were present on board.

*in America. Not a reason why they shouldn’t work in Japan, Switzerland, Norway…

Well this explains where my Amazon packages keep going.

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

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

They don't really disincentive the behaviour though. Dye packs are a thing, people still rob banks.

People who feel they have nothing to lose don't care if they get caught either.

The solution is to provide people with a decent life by default. They can then contribute to society comfortably.

But if we simply take away consequence now no one has any reason not to steal, and then more people will steal. It may not deter all people but fewer people will be willing to gamble if the odds of facing consequences go up.

The alternative is to view it as inevitable and therefore don't do anything, but then those not doing it fall behind those doing it and suddenly those who weren't stealing before now feel like losers for not doing it because no one was facing any consequences and because they held back they are now worse off.

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

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.

Anything with lithium-ion battery can’t be shipped via air due to FAA regulations.

So, laptops and phones all travel on trains and trucks. Will big helpful warning labels as well.

Ground shipping in the US often goes by train when it has to cross the country, its cheap and fuel efficient.

The backing track to this post is Delicate Tendrils.

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

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.

Neal Stephenson predicted this very accurately in Snow Crash with the concept of Burbclaves.

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.

The agency with jurisdiction here appears to be a private police force: the Union Pacific Police (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Pacific_Police_Departmen...).

So their resourcing wouldn't take into account wider societal benefits from lower crime - it'd be more about the direct costs and benefits to the business.

> it'd be more about the direct costs and benefits to the business.

... which are tied to lowering crime.

Do you think that shortages reduce revenue for logistics operations with fixed movement volumes?

I would assume they have some liability - Maybe resulting in rising insurance costs etc. It has to be in their interest to protect their freighters.

Perhaps America should be looking at reducing the causes of what leads people to needing to be thieves, rather than catching them and putting them into the justice system (which has many systemic issues itself)

As a technical comparison; if you have a system that is creating a bug then it seems an incorrect stopgap solution to invest in support resources to handle user complaints rather than development and QA resources to reduce the chances of users running into the bug.

Why help poor people when you can catch criminals instead?

> Additionally, mail theft laws which include prison as a consequence should be extended to package thefts if they don't already cover them.

But it is a nonviolent crime. It seems like finding some way to prevent the thefts is better.

I think putting the criminals in prisons for a long time, and the threat of the criminals being caught, is already a good way to prevent thefts.

I think putting people away for a longer time doesn't help much. You need to focus on probability of being caught (by which I mean at least arrested, not chased away).

A horrible way to prevent theft. Statistically a great way to create career criminals, break up families, and all the side effects that comes with (like more criminals).

People who break into containers as shown here have no excuses and are already career criminals.

Do they deserve a (potentially harsh) punishment? Yes.

But is it in society's interest not to make them worse than they already are? Also, yes.

So a problem in most countries is that prison is only focused on the punishment part not on the "what happens when people are released?" part.

I think correct way is to punish relatively harshly(few months to years depending on amount), but also remove secondary effects. Like ban employers from asking about felonies unless they are dealing with minors or for example with fraud with financial positions. Do that and the person reports automatic payment of few months of wages.

Now some of the offenders might have chance to integrate back to society...

But this attitude leads to the current situation, where the criminals face minimal risk, the deterrent factor of harsh punishments isn't there.

Are they stealing because they're criminals or are they criminals because they're stealing?

Or are they just opportunists, even if somewhat organised, stealing simply because they know they're likely to get away with it? Not doing it not out of any real need, but just for the thrill of it, or as a 'fuck you' to authority, whether that's the police, the politicians, or big business.

When people can shoplift bagloads of merchandise without even trying to be stealthy, then casually walk out past a security guard who isn't allowed to do anything, or when they can smash a window and clean out a store under the cover of protests/unrest, it's not surprising that it escalates to more organised theft - whether it's 'flash rob' looting* of stores, or now looting train cargo.

(*As for the now-seemingly-controversial term 'looting' vs stealing/theft/robbery - to me, looting is brazenly grabbing anything/everything, out in the open, often in broad daylight and on camera, while most 'normal' forms of theft are carried out more covertly and perhaps with particular targets in mind). No amount of policing will prevent all theft, but open looting is an sign of lawlessness.

Only the criminal can answer that, I suppose. Has it occurred to anyone to ask?

> It seems like finding some way to prevent the thefts is better.

It seems like it should be possible to use locks which are harder to open in a short amount of time...but I suppose the cost of that would outweigh the current costs of the theft for the railroads.

It's very difficult to make a lock that is really secure. Bolt cutters and battery powered saws / grinders are very powerful, portable and effective tools to cut through metal.

Average time needed to get into a container (X) needs to be > average time train pauses (Y). This seems like it should be a solvable problem.

For example, just thinking out loud, what about some sort of container door hinge mechanism which takes five minutes (or an adjustable amount of time) to open the door?

Screw it. This notion that we should only punish violent crime, and all other crime should be ignored needs to go. Look at this chain of logic presented above.

>> Additionally, mail theft laws which include prison as a consequence should be extended to package thefts if they don't already cover them.

>But it is a nonviolent crime. It seems like finding some way to prevent the thefts is better.

The implied conclusion here is "We're allowing it if people don't guard it like it's ft Knox."

The whole point of a legal system, the codification of crime and law enforcement is to stop things like this. To ensure that people cannot unilaterally and directly harm other people.

> unilaterally and directly harm other people.

Which is precisely what "punishment" does. Try being less vindictive and more understanding about the root circumstances that lead someone to perform an act of desperation.

Nope. The criminal is the one who needs to realize and internalise his desperation, and move on to a better life. Everyone has needs, get in line sunshine.

> and move on to a better life

That's exactly what is being attempted via the theft.

Obviously theft is not a long-term solution. Being a lowlife is no way to live. There are people working the skin off their bones on two jobs just to barely live. And some entitled shmuck wants the easy way out?

Not to meander too much, but I think this is a genuinely interesting question. Is theft the 'easy way out'? I'm not so sure. It's a job like any other, requiring skill to be successful, and comes with a slew of stressors that are non-issues in legal jobs, like the risk of apprehension for starters. The higher risk may also at times yield higher reward, but I wouldn't say necessarily 'easier'. I think showing up for a generic 9-to-5 is significantly easier than robbing trains successfully.

How is stealing electronics and covid tests an act of desperation? They are not stealing food and hygiene products, right?

The containers don't have big signs telling them which ones to steal for the food and which ones to ignore because they only contain TVs and covid tests.

If you are desperate, you steal anything and try to sell it to buy food and hygiene products.

Presumably they aren't stealing electronics because their old phone is due an upgrade, though.

1. Statistics show that crime levels strongly correlate with economic inequality

2. ?

3. Most criminals are just poor people scraping by using the only means available to them; veritable street kids stealing a loaf of bread

Honestly, I don't understand this logic at all. Specifically, how people arrive at #3.

No, punishment is not unilateral, it’s right there in the word definition.

I would be extremely interested in what definition of punishment you are using where punishment is defined as not being unilateral, which would mean it's some sort of bilateral punishment with consent of the punished party?

Not much within reason that you can do to stop a portable oxy torch, and the train doesn't need to be stopped, they just need to hop on and off at the right times. People hop moving trains all the time. All you're doing is shifting the numbers around in the same equation.

But I think the bigger issue is just that you're talking about retrofitting an aspect of the global transport complex. Why would the entire shipping industry change it's approach to standardized containers just to stop some thieves at a specific American spot? The cost of using special containers for this specific route would be prohibitive I imagine, and hard to manage the logistics of.

Let me introduce you to 12" hydraulic bolt cutters. They cut through the toughest bike U-locks. No lock survives them. If the lock is stronger, there are stronger hydraulic cutters. Containers tend to be protected by puck-style locks. There are specialized hydraulic tools for defeating those also. There are also, of course, blowtorches.

The only solution is armed escort for trains through slow zones.

If the locks are sufficiently armoured, thieves will simply defeat hinges or latches, or go straight through the sides of boxes.

Weakest point of entry.

> it is a nonviolent crime

This doesn't really mean anything. Non-violent crimes range from personal drug use & speeding to ponzi schemes & drunk driving.

There is a difference between theft (a victim exists and can inflict either physical or emotional damage) and something like personal light drug use (mostly victimless).

Theft not only robs a victim of their time & resource but it can also inflict emotional damage. A broken car window means you're out whatever they stole + glass (often a week or more of wages) and the emotional stress & time to fix it. These packages had recipients - the PPE is obviously important but each of these packages could have been someones anniversary gift or important medical device.

If we're talking about the moral severity of the crime itself, theft is pretty close to assault in my book and should be punished accordingly.

We can work on preventing the desperateness that leads to theft while still having strict punishment. What we shouldn't do is not address the root cause AND let such crimes go essentially unpunished.

I disagree. If you prevent this one, some people will stop, whilst others will just find something else to steal elsewhere. It's like a big game of wack-a-mole.

I'd much rather we arrest them so they can be rehabilitated or helped. Which is a separate discussion, but there have to be consequences. Sometimes it's too late to help them and we just need to stem the damage they do to society and other people that are innocent.

> I'd much rather we arrest them so they can be rehabilitated or helped.

This is not what happens when people are arrested.

That's why OP said: > Which is a separate discussion

I'm not so sure with the contents of some of the boxes being COVID tests or EpiPens if it can truly be considered "non-violent".

Fortunately, medicines shipped by specialty / remote pharmacies typically don't often go by train, as they need relatively climate controlled environments (above freezing, under a certain amount, etc).

That said, steal the shots I take for an autoimmune disorder and I'll definitely consider it an assault on my health.

In the US, stealing Epipens and selling them on the black market makes them more accessible compared to than forcing people to pay the retail price. The manufacturer can always make more - they could accept 90% losses due to theft and still sell them profitably, based on the prices they offer in other countries [0].

So if you're going to play the "assault on my health" card, the guys robbing trains are literally Robin Hood saving lives.

Yeah, it introduces some problems around chain of custody, counterfeiting...but people who can afford the $300 can continue to pay the retail price.

[0] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mylan-nl-pfizer-epipen-id...

That's real noble, but the issue I'm on about isn't the price, that's its own can of worms and something for you lot to deal with in the US.

Disruption to medicine supply is my concern here, having had supply issues affect a family member where they've had to ration out heart related medication... I'm a little tetchy about it.

This is cute and all, but generic versions are available for much less than that, goodrx and co offer steep discounts on the brand name, and Medicaid pays for it entirely with no co-pay.

If you want to continue the robin hood analogy, well, Robin hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He wasn't selling life saving medicines that may or may not be fake (buyers won't know either way), and may have been improperly handled or stored.

He wasn't potentially killing people who just want to save a few bucks.

That’s ridiculous. You think someone is going to buy an Epi-pen off some random dude on the street?

Easier to just go to the ER and not pay the bill.

I'd certainly consider buying a stolen/black market/grey market EpiPen at $300 if I needed one and the alternative cost $3000. The shelf life is 13-18 months, so that's a recurring cost, and I'd like to have more than one (perhaps carry one on my person and store one safely at home). I'd look for factory-sealed, tamper-evident packaging.

I'm privileged to be able to even consider spending the $3000 (I don't have severe allergies, so haven't actually made this decision). It's not at all ridiculous that someone on a tighter budget would make the same decision if it was $30 vs $300, and might make compromises on the QA. And "just go to the ER" doesn't cut it: regardless of the cost, that could take hours, while you may only have minutes to spare in the case of anaphylactic shock. You take the injection AND go straight to the ER, it's not an either-or thing.

$3k isn't close to the retail cost of an epipen nowadays, and the brand name epipen is a fraction of the market now that generics are available.

Two shot kits range from $100-$300, depending on whether you are buying genetic or brand name, whether you use goodrx, etc.

Cool, so wage theft is a nonviolent crime as well, hence by your logic it should go unpunished as well

Wage theft is very violent.

Putting this burden on the commercial parties is the type of thing that causes inflation.

Police this.

Looks like it's already a federal crime of it's own with possible prison time: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1991

IANAL, but States are not "within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States"

In this context "the United States" means the federal government. States are also within the jurisdiction of the state government, and therefore not within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States.

This is the exact same reason why the US president can only pardon federal crimes.

The conditions are ORed, not ANDed:

Whoever, in any Territory or District, OR within or upon any place within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States

(Capitalisation for emphasis by me.)

The crime depicted is a federal one under US law.

A State is also not a Territory or a District.

Do you have a specific reference addressing this, because I'm not finding a clear statement one way or the other.

Title 18 lacks a Definitions section that I can find.

Not a definitive source, but here's FATCA for example: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/treaties...

> The term “U.S. Territory” means American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.


And there's plenty of references to legal documents clearly stating or implying that territories are in fact not sovereign entities (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rico_v._Sanchez_Valle)

And obviously there's only one Disctrict. The District of Columbia.

So it's actually fairly complex to define "the United States", because the answer is generally "it depends on the context"


I'm trying to determine whether or not the language in Title 18 refers to "territory" in the sense of "any land that is part of the United States" (which would include the states), or "organised Territories exclusive of states". It's odd that the language is chosen but not clarified.

I'm aware that generally states have jurisdiction within their own boundaries, but that interstate commerce is an exception. Given railroads' history ... the distinction, contenxt, and intent seem needlessly vague.

Your original point remains though it's not clear to me it's the correct interpretation.


I imagine this will get sorted since Buffett both invests in Union Pacific and provides insurance. He famously doesn't get involved in the companies in which he invests, but I imagine his people could shoot over a question like, "why is this happening?"

Society should be strong enough *not* to have to rely on random idiot billionaires to sponsor basic social services like law enforcement.

The railroad itself is incentivized to secure its own goods. We aren't "reliant" on them to do that.

If Buffett sells his stake in UP, someone else buys it and the company continues on. They got big because they figured out how to build a profitable business. Part of that is security. None of that makes us dependent on them. We have a mutual dependence through trade. Businesses provide something we want, and we give them something they want.

I don't think Buffett invests in Union Pacific. His company fully owns BNSF which holds a duopoly with Union Pacific in the Western United States.

It looks like Buffett owned Union Pacific shares a while back, but sold them in 2009 so that they could buy BNSF.

> Any resourced

I thought we all rooted here to defund the police? Should we backtrack that idea?

Edit: I seem to have broken a nerve in some people here. Sorry, for being snarky. I just think that you can't reduce funding for a gov agency but also then expect it to be resourced. Just using sterile logic to make this conclusion.

LAPD funding went _up_ 12% during and after the George Floyd protests (The highest it's ever been! The highest in the country per capita!). In fact, LASD/public schools got a cut in funding to help fund the LAPD budget. Granted, per the article, LAPD doesn't service freight rail lines, maybe because they'd say they'd be stretched too thin – and to be fair, 800+ of them are on leave for COVID, and falsely blaming it on defunding (which is corroborated by LAPD's own PR department, saying the statements put out should not have been).




These statements are facts, yours are... what, exactly?

I am talking in general, not specifically about LAPD. There seems to be a rude awakening, where I live: https://www.npr.org/2021/12/11/1063408465/oakland-city-counc...

> The city council voted last summer to redirect money proposed for Oakland's Police Department to social services. But this week, defund the police became refund to the police. The same city council approved two new police academies and voted to hire a professional recruiter to attract officers to its department after a wave of resignations.

If we're not talking about Los Angeles – which is what this entire article is based on – then you're opening up pandora's box.

What about Scandinavian or Western European countries, then? Maybe closer to home, what about NYC – the year the NYPD went on strike, crime went _down_ (not just a drop in arrests, but actual murders, theft, etc). and NYPD realized they'd have to voluntarily restart policing (without the desired increase in labor terms), or NYC City Council might realize they're not as necessary as they originally set out to prove.



When you fund a prison-industrial complex, you're creating a system that incentivizes incarceration, not rehabilitation. These systems don't want to solve crime – they want to set out to look for (or, some would say, create) crime. Other countries realized this, and seem to have much less actual crime as a result, while protecting things that actually matter (i.e. their major trade routes/people's lives/the general wellbeing of society). The US seems to have this idea that... if you don't have a home, or you're addicted to drugs, or you need a wellness check, you're more dangerous than a murderer or a thief (given that the former group makes up the vast majority of those incarcerated)

Oakland budget is still higher than its ever been, they just gave them less of a raise than expected last year. The money cut in 2020 was mostly due to the pandemic.

2019-2021 was 635 million allotted, 20mil less than the 665 mil project, due to the pandemic. The 2021-2023 budget is 674 million, with an additional 18 million spent on the community based programs.

The budget is ever increasing, contrary to what a lot of people like to tout.

I’m sure that article is not making the point you think it is. In fact the editor seems to have missed the point with the title as well.

> What has not been reported as much is that the number of authorized sworn officers has remained unchanged. What we voted on last Tuesday is a more aggressive push to fill 60 budgeted vacant police officer positions that we had already approved in June that are not yet filled because our academy system is failing.

The rest of the paragraph explains how certain groups are using this concept of defunding the police to stoke fear in people like you. Incredibly ironic.

Very few people want to actually defund the police. But try being a black friend of mine, who got thrown out of his car without resisting and beaten so bad he had to go to an ICU, purely because he was driving a car that “matched the description” (that didn’t even match the color) of a crime in the area, and perhaps you can begin to understand why the “other side” is frustrated…

And let me guess. You think these train robberies happen because they defunded the police in their area…?

I am well aware of the colloquial term "Defund the police" which is often met by "No, not literally defund it". But the reality is that there is a strong support to reduce resources and move towards soft-policing.

Have you been to the Bay Area? Apartment complexes and condominiums are hardened like castles while their kids play in the safe courtyards and the outside is rotting to the point of unsafe for male padestrians, let alone women and kids. These are the same people voting for these policies. Completely deranged.

Dude, I literally live in the Bay Area. And crime here is no where even close to bad as it was where I used to live in Texas. It’s all relative. Especially when politics is involved.

I see absolutely no reason to believe that raising police budgets would somehow magically fix this. It wouldn’t. We have deeper societal issues at hand.

Certain areas in Bay Area (may be south bay) are probably better than others.

Digging around a bit, SF (and generally the rest of the bay area follows) has a substantially higher crime rate than say Austin or the US average: https://www.bestplaces.net/compare-cities/austin_tx/san_fran...

There are probably better sources than what I linked. It is really bad here in my experience and I want to move out.

What kinds of crime are you talking about? Loitering? Murder? Again, it’s all relative. How would increased police funding help with ANY of that…?

There are plenty of reasons to want to move out of the Bay Area. Christ, traffic on the 101 often makes me want to jump off the golden gate bridge - but I don’t see how snarky remarks about “defund the police” help one way or another without dramatically misunderstanding and oversimplifying the real causes of this city’s problems.

For me the main reason to leave is crime and general third-worldlyness. Got my car broken into several times, several parks are occupied by the homeless, Citizen app is going crazy where I live, the whole thing is not what I think of a developed nation.

I can deal with traffic, weather is wonderful.

Crime in SF itself is pretty localized.

The Tenderloin is practically like a South African slum. Sunnydale, Bayview/Hunter's Point and the south side of Potrero are dangerous. You have to watch yourself in the Mission, downtown, SoMa, and a few other neighborhoods.

But in Forest Hill you might as well be in Menlo Park. Pac Heights is generally safe. So is the Presidio. Even Noe Valley, right next to the Mission, is much safer. Crime doesn't like to climb.

> Have you been to the Bay Area? Apartment complexes and condominiums are hardened like castles while their kids play in the safe courtyards and the outside is rotting to the point of unsafe for male padestrians, let alone women and kids.

I don't think this is a fair description of the vast majority of the SF Bay Area. Perhaps it describes well some bits of Hayward and Oakland.

Large amounts of the SF Bay Area have crime rates well below the national median.

It's a fairly accurate description of the apartment towers in downtown SF.

Police are focusing all of their efforts elsewhere. They don't care about property crime like this. Also, as pointed out elsewhere on the thread, policing the tracks is the responsibility of the railroad company, not LAPD.

Do they publish what they do spend time on?

The police are already ridiculously well-funded (on average, there are exceptions). Look at their budgets and start asking "where the hell does the money go?"

They don't need more money. They need to be held accountable.

Do you think the police in the jurisdiction where these train thefts occurred was underfunded? I’d be thrilled to hear your solution…

The actual responsible enforcement agency is in Omaha Nebraska, whereas the LAPD has had increased funding through the years.

Perhaps surprisingly, the police force with jurisdiction here appears to be a private one, not a government agency.

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