A Los Angeles City Council committee Tuesday questioned Union Pacific Railroad, the Los Angeles Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office about package thefts from trains, which railroad officials say have started to decline in 2022 after increasing in the last six months of last year.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who chairs the Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee, called the hearing as part of a motion he introduced requesting a report from the Chief Legislative Analyst on the thefts.

The councilman, who represents the area around the Port of Los Angeles, said he worried that the bad publicity about the thefts, including photos of the tracks littered with remnants of looted packages, could cause companies to divert their imports and exports from the port, the busiest in North America.

He also reiterated his allegations that the thefts were caused by criminal justice reform policies by District Attorney George Gascón — including not seeking cash bail for misdemeanor, non-violent and non-serious felony offences — alleging that the message being sent to thieves is “there’s zero consequences.”

Union Pacific General Director of Public Affairs Adrian Guerrero also sent a letter to the District Attorney claiming that his decision to dismiss certain misdemeanors such as trespassing has caused the spike in thefts.

Committee member Councilman Mike Bonin pushed back on the allegations that reform policies, on which Gascón campaigned in 2020, caused the spike. Bonin asked Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Al Lopez during the hearing Tuesday how many of the LAPD’s 39 arrests at the railroad were repeat offenders. Lopez said none of them were repeat offenders and each arrest was a different person.

Bonin also added that the same spike in thefts is not being experienced by BNSF Railway, which also operates rail lines in Los Angeles County under the same criminal justice reform policies. The number of repeat offenders, if there were any, arrested by Union Pacific’s police force was not available from Guerrero during the hearing Wednesday. The combined total number of arrests is more than 100.

“I have yet to see or hear evidence that supports that charge from Union Pacific. I want to keep seeing the data because if that’s true, then we need to look at it. But if it’s not true, than that is a really serious political allegation and it’s quite misleading and it distracts us from getting to a solution,” Bonin said.

According to Guerrero, the number of cases that had Union Pacific listed as a victim was 78 in 2019, 56 in 2020 and 47 in 2021, however he said there was a 160% increase in boxes broken into in 2020-21.

He said Union Pacific is open to funding LAPD overtime costs to provide additional security at the railroad. Other measures being pursued to deter crime at the railroad include additional surveillance cameras and fencing.

LAPD Capt. German Hurtado said the LAPD is also pursuing a $150,000 grant to put more officers in the area. That grant could begin in April, but an additional $300 million grant is also being pursued from the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide hardened fencing, lights, cameras, motion detectors and more.

Gascón previously fired back at allegations that the thefts were caused by his policies, saying the railroad doesn’t do enough to ensure its trains are adequately locked and protected.

In a letter to Guerrero, the district attorney said the LAPD has determined that “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,” Gascón wrote.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.