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'Tens of guns' stolen in Los Angeles rail cargo thefts, police say

The rampant theft from trains on Union Pacific tracks near downtown L.A. has at times left tracks covered in a sea of discarded boxes, wrappers and unwanted items.

LOS ANGELES — Thieves breaking into freight trains in Los Angeles have stolen guns from cargo containers, police Chief Michel Moore said.

Moore told the city’s board of civilian police commissioners on Monday that “tens of firearms” have been stolen, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“That gave us the great concern as a source again of further violence in the city as people were capitalizing on the transport of these containers with having little or no policing or security services there.”

The rampant theft from trains on Union Pacific tracks near downtown has at times left the tracks covered in a sea of discarded boxes, wrappers and unwanted items.

Union Pacific spokesperson Robynn Tysver said the railroad has brought in dozens of special agents to help and “will continue to monitor and clean up the tracks” but declined to comment on the gun thefts, the Times said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is promising statewide coordination as law enforcement and prosecutors go after thieves who have been raiding cargo containers aboard trains near downtown Los Angeles for months, leaving the tracks blanketed with discarded boxes.

The governor on Jan. 20 joined a cleanup crew from the state Department of Transportation filling dozens of trash bags with crushed cardboard from packages stolen on their way from retailers to people across the U.S.

TV news stations aired overhead video showing thousands of boxes strewn by thieves along a Union Pacific rail line northeast of downtown in the Lincoln Park area. Footage from NBC4 showed two men, one holding what looked like bolt cutters, walking along the tracks.

“It looked like a third world country, these images, the drone images that were on the nightly news,” Newsom told reporters gathered Thursday along the cleaned up tracks.

The governor said his new budget proposal includes funds to expand the Organized Retail Theft Task Force created last year when Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities saw organized groups of roving thieves carrying out smash-and-grab robberies at retail stores.

The train thieves are equally organized and need to be prosecuted as such, Newsom said.

The Associated Press' Christopher Webber contributed to this report.