LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - On Friday, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón responded to concerns held by officials at Union Pacific about thefts and safety on the train tracks.
Union Pacific had reported that between October 2020 and October 2021, train thefts were up by 365%. Officials with the rail company had also sent the DA a letter calling the issue a "spiraling crisis," and implored his office to hold criminals accountable.
In response, Gascón said in a letter that his office conducted a review of cases filed by Union Pacific over the last three years.
"Here are the numbers: In 2019, 78 cases were presented for filing. In 2020, 56 cases were presented for filing. And in sharp decline, in 2021, 47 such cases were
presented for filing consideration, and over 55% were filed by my Office. The charges filed included both felony and misdemeanor offenses alleging burglary, theft, and receiving stolen property," the DA's letter said.
Of the 20 cases Gascón's office declined to file, according to the letter, 10 were for insufficient evidence and another 10 that involved allegations of unhoused individuals being within 20 feet of the train tracks and possession of drugs for personal use, not burglary theft or tampering.
"Although homelessness is a serious issue, it is not one we can fix through expending resources of the criminal legal system," the DA's letter said.
Gascón's letter went on to say that felony and misdemeanor cases are filed when there's sufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed.
"We understand how vital the rail system is to Los Angeles County and the entire nation and want to work with you in a productive manner to ensure that those who tamper with or steal from UP are held accountable....Part of this collaboration involves taking preventative steps to ensure that cargo containers are secure or locked," the letter said.
The District Attorney's letter then raises the point that Union Pacific has its own law enforcement officers who are charged with keeping the train tracks safe, but that according to Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Al Labrada "UP does little to secure or lock trains and has significantly decreased law enforcement staffing."
"It is very telling that other major railroad operations in the area are not facing the same level of theft at their facilities as UP. We can ensure that appropriate cases are filed and prosecuted; however, my Office is not tasked with keeping your sites secure and the District Attorney alone cannot solve the major issues facing your organization," the letter reads.
Friday's letter from the District Attorney to Adrian Guerrero, General Director-Public Affairs for Union Pacific Railroad Company, can be read in its entirety here.
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