More than 80 newly-manufactured guns were among the items stolen from cargo trains near Los Angeles in recent months, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the matter.
The pilfered firearms, which included at least 36 pistols and 46 semi-automatic shotguns, were taken from a container car that was burglarized last August. The shipment’s destination was Tennessee, the sources said.
Only two have been recovered thus far, according to the sources.
Earlier this week, Los Angeles police announced that guns were among the items stolen in the recent spate of train thefts, but specific figures were not provided.
"That gave us a significant concern as a source of further violence in the city," Los Angeles Police Chief Michael Moore said Tuesday.
The LAPD made six arrests in the last week, and more than 120 overall, involving individuals suspected of breaking into the rail cars and taking a wide variety of valuable merchandise, a department spokesperson said this week.
"People were capitalizing on the transport of these containers with having little or no policing or security services there," Moore said.
Gang members are among those suspected of being involved in the thefts, officials said.
The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms had no immediate comment and referred an NBC News inquiry to the LAPD and Union Pacific Railroad Police.
LAPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Union Pacific Railroad spokesperson declined to answer specific questions, citing the active investigation. But the spokesperson said the railroad had brought in “dozens of special agents” to assist in the investigation.
Since last summer, cargo trains passing through the area have been hit repeatedly by thieves who have stolen items such as big-screen televisions, appliances and clothing. The spate of thefts has drawn comparisons to rifle-toting train bandits of the old West.
But officials say trains have been easy targets, with very little security, for years and bandits can essentially gain access to freight cars unopposed.