Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon publicly responded to Union Pacific’s complaints about the slew of brazen train robberies recently. As local news reported and Outsider covered one week ago, thieves in LA have been hijacking retail loads full of consumer packages of late. The evidence is all over the tracks, as portions of the Lincoln Heights switchyard are literally littered with the remains of thousands of Amazon (and other) packages.
About a month ago, Union Pacific’s state director of public affairs, Adrian Guerrero, sent a letter to Gascon detailing the situation. Guerrero linked the rise in retail crime as a whole in LA county with the sudden rash of train thefts. Union Pacific said it experienced a 160 percent rise in train thefts in LA County last year. He also asked Gascon for direct assistance in dealing with the issue.
Union Pacific followed up the letter with a specific plea last week as well, now that the story has gone viral. The company urged Gascon to reconsider Special Directive 20-07. This directive allows the DA’s office to decline or dismiss many misdemeanor cases prior to arraignment. The directive uses vague language like “consideration of special factors” in determining whether or not to prosecute misdemeanor cases.
What Did Gascon Say About the New Directive?
Gascon’s public reply implies that crime complaints actually went down in 2021. This statistic means, on the surface, that “less” crime occurred; or, at least, fewer parties reported crime. Whether or not ‘less reported crime’ actually means ‘less theft occurred’ is unclear.
“In 2019, our office considered 78 cases for filing. In 2020, our office considered 56 cases for filing. And in a sharp decline, in 2021, 47 such cases were presented for filing consideration. Over 55% were filed by my office,” Gascon said in his letter to the railroad company. “The charges filed included both felony and misdemeanor offenses alleging burglary, theft and receiving stolen property.”
Gascon also said that out of 20 cases that his office declined, half did not meet the sufficiency “of the evidence presented to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is our ethical standard to file a criminal case.”
Furthermore, the DA’s office did not file the other 10 because they “involved offenses such as allegations of unhoused individuals within 20 feet of the train tracks and simple possession of drugs for personal use — not allegations of burglary, theft or tampering.”
The Evidence of Train Theft Speaks for Itself
And yet, the photos in circulation show evidence of extensive, brazen burglaries. The trash and debris by the trains came from somewhere; but criminality is not necessarily in play here, according to the DA’s office.
The story gained national momentum because it coincided with unprecedented supply chain woes. Many citizens are wondering aloud how these kinds of retail interruptions are impacting an already-stressed supply chain. More importantly, people want answers; what is the government doing to fix it? Various members of Congress sent letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding clarification and help in the matter.
Gascon said in his letter that, “according to LAPD Deputy Chief Al Labrada, UP does little to secure or lock trains. Also, they have significantly decreased law enforcement staffing. It is very telling. Other major railroad operations in the area are not facing the same level of theft at their facilities as UP.”