In December 2021, Adrian Guerrero, UP's state director of public affairs in California, sent a letter to the district attorney pointing to rising retail theft crime in LA County over the past year as part of the reason train thefts were occurring more frequently and asking for assistance in addressing it on UP railroads. UP says it experienced a 160% increase in criminal rail theft in Los Angeles County over the past year.
Last week, UP urged Gascon to "reconsider" Special Directive 20-07, which allows many misdemeanor cases to be declined or dismissed prior to arraignment unless "factors for considerations" exist.
Gascon, however, said UP filed fewer criminal cases to the district attorney's office in 2021 than it did in 2020 or 2019.
"In 2019, 78 cases were presented for filing. In 2020, 56 cases were presented for filing. And in a sharp decline, in 2021, 47 such cases were presented for filing consideration, and over 55% were filed by my office," Gascon said in his letter to UP. "The charges filed included both felony and misdemeanor offenses alleging burglary, theft and receiving stolen property."
Gascon added that out of 20 cases that were declined, 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 were not filed because they "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."
The train burglary issue made headlines Friday after photojournalist John Schreiber on Jan. 13 shared footage of train tracks belonging to UP in Lincoln Heights and described "looted packages as far as the eye can see," including "Amazon packages, UPS boxes, unused Covid tests, fishing lures, epi pens," he said in a tweet.
The photos and videos prompted questions about what officials are doing to combat rail theft and how these thefts are impacting an already-stressed U.S. supply chain. Various members of Congress have sent letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for help in addressing the matter.
Gascon said in his letter that, "according to LAPD 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."
UP has about 1,600 employees in Los Angeles County and its own police department with primary jurisdiction over crimes committed on the railroad, according to its website. The railroad company estimates more than 90 containers are compromised per day. The theft has amounted to more than $5 million in damages to UP alone, which does not include damages to customers or consumers.
Those "who are intent on breaking into these containers can and will find a way," sometimes "damaging the containers to gain access," a UP spokesperson previously told Fox News Digital.