After it was revealed that freight cars in Los Angeles train yards have been repeatedly ransacked, with the contents, primarily packages, discarded for miles along the tracks, Union Pacific (UP) blamed the catch-and-release policies of leftist prosecutors in LA. The losses in 2021 account for "approximately $5 million in claims, losses, and damages to UP," not including costs to customers.
In a letter to LA District Attorney George Gascon, Union Pacific's Adrian Guerrero said that in LA, "Criminals are caught and arrested, turned over to local authorities for booking, arraigned before the local courts, charges are reduced to a misdemeanor or petty offense, and the criminal is released after paying a nominal fine." Gascon faces a recall effort as well as no-confidence votes from local leaders.
Guerrero said that "these individuals are generally caught and released back onto the streets in less than twenty-four hours. Even with all the arrests made, the no-cash bail policy and extended timeframe for suspects to appear in court is causing re-victimization to UP by these same criminals."
Gascon has a "zero-bail" policy in LA that has resulted in the release of many alleged thieves charged with participating in "smash-and-grab" robberies. LAPD arrested 14 alleged thieves connected to thefts at 11 stores. They are all back out on the street.
Unions Pacific has 1,600 employees who handle 275 miles of track and 9 facilities in LA. Guerrero reached out to Gascon to ask for help in getting these massive thefts under control, not only for the good of their employees and their business, but for the people who depend on actually receiving their packages and the American supply chain as a whole.
These disruptions and the lack of law enforcement to hold thieves accountable has resulted in UP "now contemplating serious changes to our operating plans to avoid Los Angeles County."
"Since December 2020," Guerrero told Gascon, "UP has experienced an over 160% increase in criminal rail theft in Los Angeles County." The increases in thefts in 2021, he writes, surpassed the previous year by 200 percent during several months. "In October lone, the increase was 356% compared to October 2020."
While the package thefts made news due to video footage that was widely shared on social media, UP's Guerrero told Gascon that in addition to the thefts, there have been "increased assaults and armed robberies of UP employees performing their duties moving trains."
Despite there being "over 90 containers compromised per day," and despite the "over 100 arrests" that "have been made of active criminals," with "UP alone making several dozens of arrests," Guerrero told Gascon that "UP has not been contacted for any court proceedings."
Even with all the arrests made, Guerrero said, "criminals boast to our officers that charges will be pled down to simple trespassing—which bears no serious consequence. Without any judicial deterrence or consequence, it is no surprise that over the past year UP has witnessed the significant increase in criminal rail theft..."
As a result, Guerrero urged Gascon to "reconsider the policies detailed in Special Directive 20-70," which details how the LA DA's office would handle "misdemeanor prosecutions" and went into effect in December 2020. It claimed that "prosecution of the offenses driving the bulk of misdemeanor cases have minimal, or even negative, long-term impacts on public safety."
UP said that why they "understand the well-intended social justice goals of the police, we need our justice system to support our partnership efforts with local law enforcement, hold these criminals accountable, and most importantly, help protect our employees and the critical local and national rail network."