LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom visited East Los Angeles after a viral video showed the Union Pacific train tracks littered with garbage after thieves raided passing containers.
"I was watching the same thing you were, and I was thinking what the hell," Newsom said. "It looks like a third-world country."
The governor joined CalTrans workers to clean up a section of the tracks littered with thousands of discarded boxes and to announce a multi-agency task force, led by the California Highway Patrol, charged with cracking down on the massive amount of rail theft occurring in the city.
"Ths organized theft," Newsom said."They're organized groups of folks that move from site to site. These folks are arrested as they are individuals as though they are not connected to the whole and we need to change that."
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department along with CHP will work with Union Pacific agents to strengthen patrols and increase intelligence to prevent future raids.
According to Newsom, so far authorities have arrested 280 suspected thieves.
"It's going to be a full-time effort for 90 to 100 days and then we will reevaluate after that," said CHP Assitant Chief Charlie Sampson.
From October 2020 to October 2021 rail theft has exponentially increased by 356%, according to Union Pacific. In a letter addressed to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, the company blamed what it called a "spiraling crisis" on the no cash bail policy put forth by the District Attorney's office and said many of the arrested suspects return the next day.
"It's not just arrest and walk away," said Newsom. "You got to do the work and present the case and see folks prosecuted — not condoning this behavior. There is nothing acceptable about this behavior."
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