Who is to Blame for L.A.’s Cargo Train Thefts?

Union Pacific’s director of public affairs estimates that the company has sustained losses of $5 million so far

In recent weeks, embattled Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon has been blasted by the widow of a slain LAPD police officer, and is now being blamed for a “spiraling crisis of organized and opportunistic criminal rail theft,” by Union Pacific Railroad officials.

 As many as 90 containers a day are compromised in Los Angeles alone, thefts that are throwing the U.S. supply chain into chaos and have even been connected to the staggering uptick in crimes, as detailed in Los Angeles this month

A cache of stolen guns looted from a Union Pacific Cargo train are believed to be connected to the August 16, 2021 murder of Leopoldo “Boxer” Esquivel, 34, a reputed member of the Metro 13 gang. They are an East L.A. gang that investigators and railroad officials believe are behind the heists.

 Adrian Guererro, Director of Public Affairs for Union Pacific, blames Gascon’s policies – specifically Special Directive 20-07 which allows many misdemeanor cases to be dismissed prior to arraignment unless there are special circumstances – for the unrelenting crimes along the 275 miles of track that snake through Los Angeles County.

 In a letter to Gascon, Guererro said that more than 100 arrests have been made by special agents who act as law enforcement officers for the railway in partnership with the LAPD, the LASD, and the California Highway Patrol. “Of all those arrests,” Guererro wrote, “UP has not been contacted for any court proceedings.”

Guererro said Union Pacific estimates the company has sustained $5 million in losses, prompting an expansion of its law enforcement resources, new technologies, drones, electric fences, and cameras to stymie the cargo train crime wave. But even if they catch a crook there is no prosecution for the crime, which just emboldens the organized gangs of thieves.

 “Some thieves have even boasted to arresting officers that their charges will be plead out to a trespassing,” Guererro said.

 “We find ourselves coming back to the same results with the Los Angeles County Criminal Justice system. Criminals are caught and arrested, turned over to local authorities for booking…charges are reduced to a misdemeanor or petty charge, and the criminal is back on the streets within twenty-four hours.”

 In late January, Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference in Lincoln Heights echoing Union Pacific’s concern that East L.A. gangs were behind the massive swell in cargo train crime.

 “This is organized theft. These are organized gangs of people that are coming out,” Newsom told reporters. Then he quickly corrected himself. “Forgive me for saying ‘gangs,’ that’s not a pejorative,” he clarified. “They’re organized groups of folks that move from site to site.”

 At the event, Newsom did not mention the missing shipments of 36 brand-new handguns and 46 shotguns, which the LAPD believes is at least 84. The LAPD has confirmed that as many of three gun arrests in L.A. in recent months were .22 caliber handguns that were part of the stolen shipment headed to Tennessee.  

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