National News Review: Train package theft in LA, hostage crisis at Texas synagogue

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Package theft from Los Angeles trains rises

Parcels Inside a Delivery Van
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

Cases of package theft have increased sharply along railroads in Los Angeles county, according to a CNN article. Union Pacific, one of the largest railroad corporations in America, intends to work with the county of Los Angeles to end the rise in prosecutions, according to the article. 

“Union Pacific said last month in a letter to the Los Angeles District Attorney that it saw a 160% year-over-year increase in theft in LA county. The company claims that a December 2020 special directive issued by District Attorney George Gascón that changed how low-level offenses are prosecuted has contributed to the uptick,” the article reads. 

Package theft is said to be related to the rising national poverty rates — a result of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely impacted Los Angeles county according to CNN. Non-theft arrests have also been made of people scavenging through dropped packages. 

“‘Everything comes on the train — cellphones, Louis Vuitton purses, designer clothes, toys, lawnmowers, power equipment, power tools,” said a 37-year-old man who declined to give his name. He said he comes to the tracks regularly and once found a Louis Vuitton purse and a robotic arm worth five figures, stating, “‘We find things here and there, make some money off of it,’” according to an article from the Los Angeles Times.

The most recent instance of theft occurred on Saturday, Jan. 15, with 17 cars derailed and packages stolen, according to the Los Angeles Times. No members of the crew or railroad operators have been harmed by these thefts.

Gunman takes synagogue hostage in Texas 

On January 15, British citizen Malik Faisal Akram took four hostages in the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue, according to National Public Radio.  

Among the hostages was rabbi Charlie Cryton-Walker, who was leading religious services online. 

Akram engaged in a 10-hour standoff with the FBI, ATF and local police in Colleyville, Texas. While one hostage was freed earlier, the remaining hostages escaped when law enforcement entered the building, killing the gunman. 

“‘I wanted to make sure we got the word out to synagogues and places of worship that we’re not going to tolerate this,’” said Biden, who also praised the efforts of federal and local law enforcement,” NPR reports.  

Malik Akram’s family, located in the British town of Blackburn, provided information about the hostage-taker to the FBI while the crisis unfolded, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation. 

According to BBC, law enforcement told the media, “The hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist jailed over attempts to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.”  

Malik’s brother Gulbar Akram, who was initially suspected to be in the synagogue with him, condemned his brother’s actions and called for unity against religious terrorism.  

“We would also like to add that any attack on any human being be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim, etc. is wrong and should always be condemned,” Gulbar wrote on Facebook, according to the BBC. 

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