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Train burglaries in LA (twitter.com/johnschreiber)
568 points by r721 on Jan 14, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 602 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.

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.

Do you somehow think that creating a containment system works in solving crime? It alienates and breeds recidivism. We can’t lock everyone up for life.

>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.

Homicide and violent crime _has_ increased nationwide, and not just in California or in cities with progressive DAs. Florida and Texas, two states that frequently compare themselves against California, saw a similar pattern where property crimes decreased in 2020, but violent crimes increased, and continued to increase in 2021.

I think some of the points in your comment may be valid, especially regarding extreme division, loss of societal trust, and growing inequality. Trust in police and in our institutions probably hit an all time low in 2020. But I think pointing purely to "progressive DAs" doesn't map to reality.

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

Actually, I think they're at all-time highs because you literally refuse to build anything except suburban hellscapes full of single-family houses made of ticky-tacky that all look just the same. I'm serious about this. California's recently-passed upzoning law is the only effective policy intervention for housing I've seen from your state in decades.

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.

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.

Seems like the problem in the US is there are pockets of society which have multi generational issues where the parents don’t know how to teach their kids to be successful since their lives have been a failure too. As well as an environment that normalises crime.

It seems extremely difficult to break this cycle without actually removing kids from their parents/friend groups.

Another complicating factor could be that the US has a more diverse population. Tribalism is hard to overcome, especially with a messy history of racism and oppression.

How is this unique to the US?

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"?

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

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.

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

You could punish in other ways than prison. Especially in a way to make them repair the damage they did.

"I don’t care what anyone says about..."

I can see you're enraged.

There's the real problem about everything - making judgments and decisions about the world based on emotions, not facts. You should care what other people say, especially the people who study things scientifically. I'm sure it sounds great and judicious to your enraged lizard brain to lock someone up and throw away the key, but there's a lot more to consider than what makes you feel good.

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

> 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.

Kids benefit from having uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents around as well as just their mom and dad. God knows I did!

It shouldn't be either-A-or-B; there are plenty of families whose day-to-day operation is as a nuclear family, but who have regular (more than once-a-week) contact with extended relatives. I don't think that's what this is describing; an "extended" family here is where the group of people who go to sleep every night and wake up every morning in the same house are more than just mom and dad and the kids.

> the rich are getting richer faster than the rest of us

Isn’t that just a restatement if the rather mundane concept of compound interest?

If savings account A has $100 and account B has $1mil, does it go without saying that account B will grow far faster?

I never understood why compound interest should be seen as a negative. What is the counter proposal?

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.

Americans have quite a bit of shared history and culture. It's quite bizarre, not to mention factually incorrect, that you would say religion [of which is supposed to be completely separate from the state so that Americans wouldn't by default be defined by their religion] is what held together 80% of the US.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 :)

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.

I would simply get rid of the political actors telling me it's immoral to maintain social order.

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.

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.

Yes, they were known as the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varangian_Guard

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?

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 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.

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?

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.

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.

> 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. ;)

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.

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.

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.

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.

This is in LA.

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

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 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.

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.

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

If it isn't LA's responsibility why is Union Pacific asking LA's DA to stop releasing suspects who were arrested for theft? [1]


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.

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)

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.

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

> 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.

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 ;-)

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".

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.

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?

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.

Yes LA is a third world country, please leave.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

At the risk of sounding like a Reddit comment - I came here for this comment!

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.

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

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

Idiocracy was not meant to be a documentary.

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.

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 :-)

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!

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.

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

It turned out to be a winning strategy.

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

> It hurts no one

Unless of course one of the boxes had something like epi-pens or insulin or some other medical supplies of course.

By that logic carrying a bag of nails should be a crime since you might inadvertently drop one on a public road where a UPS truck might get a flat tire and as a result not be able to deliver someone's insulin.

If you're carrying a bag of nails around for the sole purpose of "accidentally" drop on a public road to cause damage to passing vehicles...

... you're not seriously trying to argue that it shouldn't be a crime right?

Of course not, what an absurd interpretation..

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?

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.

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