By Hannah Adams and Mai Perez
LOS ANGELES, CA – In a letter last week addressed to Adrain Guerrero, the General Director of Public Affairs for the Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP), Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón addressed concerns about train theft and safety.
Gascón said his office is “Committed to working with our law enforcement partners and supporting efforts to ensure our collective safety,” and explained that each case that is sent to his office is individually reviewed and is then either filed, diverted or declined.
In light of Guerrero’s concerns, Gascón and his office conducted a thorough review of UP-related cases submitted over the past three years.
The study found that in 2019, 78 cases were considered for filing. In 2020, 56 cases were considered. And in 2021, case numbers steeply declined to 47 viable cases for filing – 55 percent of those were filed.
The cases featured charges ranging from felonies to misdemeanors, including alleged burglary, theft, and stolen property issues.
During 2021, of the 20 cases that were declined for filing, 10 were not filed as a result of insufficient evidence. The other 10 declined matters were concerned with allegations of “unhoused individuals within 20 feet of the railroad tracks and simple possession of drugs for personal use,” i.e. smaller matters.
While homelessness is a prominent issue, Gascón admitted that “it is not one that we [his office] can fix through expending resources of the criminal legal system.”
Gascón emphasizes that his office can only file felony and misdemeanor cases so long as there is enough evidence to prove that a crime was committed beyond reasonable doubt. This is the ethical standard of his office when cases are filed.
He also stresses that his office wishes to work with UP in a “productive manner,” as he understands how essential the rail system is to the Los Angeles County Area.
Gascón emphasized the importance of collaboration in keeping the rail system safe and functioning, and pointed out the lack of preventative efforts on UP’s part to properly lock and secure cargo containers.
According to the LAPD, UP “has significantly decreased law enforcement staffing.”
Gascón, in his letter, also called attention to the fact that other major railroad operations had not faced the level of theft and crime as UP, and argued the DA’s office was only responsible for filing and prosecuting cases, not for the day-to-day maintenance of UP’s security.