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New Letter By D.A. Shows Union Pacific Filed Fewer Criminal Cases In 2021 Than Past Years

2:49 PM PST on January 25, 2022

la train yard skyline and palms

Last Friday, Union Pacific officials received a response to their letter to District Attorney George Gasćon, but it wasn’t the response they were expecting. 

On December 20th, Adam Guerrero, Union Pacific’s Director of Public Affairs, penned a letter asking D.A. Gasćon for assistance with securing the company's rail lines in the Northeast L.A. neighborhood of Lincoln Heights. Stating that thefts were up 356% on the year. At the same time, noting that they were averaging 90 containers being broken into a day and a 160% increase since December. The letter also took a shot at Gasćon's progressive no cash bail policy, saying, “Criminals boast to our officers that charges will be pled down to simple trespassing - which bears no serious consequence.”  

Gasćon responded with strongly worded facts, noting that Union Pacific filed fewer criminal cases with his office in 2021 (47) than in 2020 (56) and 2019 (78).

“In a sharp decline, in 2021, 47 such cases were presented for filing consideration, and over 55% were filed by my office. The charges filed included felony and misdemeanor offenses alleging burglary, theft, and receiving stolen property, said Gasćon. 

He continued by saying, “Of the 20 cases that were declined for filing, 10 were not filed due to the insufficiency of the evidence presented to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is our ethical standard to file a criminal case. The other 10 declined matters involved offenses such as allegations of unhoused individuals within 20 feet of the railroad tracks and simple possession of drugs for personal use, not allegations of burglary, theft, or tampering. Although homelessness is a serious issue, it is not one that we can fix through expending resources of the criminal legal system.”

In short, for his office to prosecute cases, they need to be brought to him in the first place. However, that’s not happening, as noted in the records. 

Last week an anonymous Union Pacific employee came forth and told L.A, TACO that UP decreased its staff with a series of layoffs in September of 2020, and this was recently reiterated by the L.A. Times. 

Capt. German Hurtado of Hollenbeck station told the Times that “Union Pacific from Yuma, Arizona, to L.A. has six people patrolling.” 

Activists and community members believe that U.P. did this by design, noting that the company had its most profitable year in 2021 (Net income of $6.5 Billion). Yet, they didn’t rehire or hire any additional staff.

According to LAPD Chief Al Labrada, “U.P. does little to secure or lock trains and has significantly decreased law enforcement staffing,' he wrote. '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.'

The other major railroad Labrada refers to is Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF). At some points, their tracks run within two blocks of each other. On Sunday, Aerial camera operator and photojournalist John Schreiber flew over BNSF, and in his footage, you can see a noticeable difference in the upkeep of the tracks. 

Gasćon concluded his response by saying, “My Office is not tasked with keeping your sites secure, and the District Attorney alone cannot solve the major issues facing your organization. We take your concerns seriously and will continue to work with you and all our law enforcement partners on these critical issues.”

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