Lawmakers weigh in on L.A. freight train looting

Politics and government

By Signal Staff 

As Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged to crack down on the looting of freight trains in Los Angeles, state and federal lawmakers called out the string of thefts as emblematic of “soft-on-crime” policies in California and in particular those of L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón, who issued a statement saying he is taking the rash of thefts seriously and will prosecute in cases where there is sufficient evidence.  

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, joined Rep. Michelle Steel, an Orange County Republican, and fellow lawmakers in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in response to the recent freight theft in L.A. County, the national impact on the supply chain crisis, and “the failure of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón to prosecute those committing these crimes,” said a statement issued by Garcia’s office. 

In the letter, the lawmakers expressed the impact these cargo train robberies are having not only on California, but also on the nation as it grapples with a nationwide supply chain crisis — emphasizing the need for federal assistance. 

“In addition, it is important to note that many of these purchases are not just delivered throughout the state of California, but also throughout the United States, affecting interstate and international commerce,” the lawmakers wrote. “Therefore, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice play a vital role in federally prosecuting the epidemic of robberies on all freight transportation.” 

“What we are seeing in California is the perfect storm,” Garcia said in the statement. “We have a failed criminal justice system, and a district attorney who cares more about taking care of the criminals rather than protecting law-abiding citizens. This comes on the heels of the extreme defund the police movement.” 

Garcia added: “Until George Gascón stops acting like the Penguin from Gotham City and starts prosecuting those that have broken the law, I believe it is vital that the FBI and DOJ step in and provide federal assistance.” 

California Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said Newsom needs to do more to keep criminals from feeling as though they can act with impunity. 

“First there were porch pirates, then smash-and-grab robberies, and now we have looters and thieves ransacking cargo trains; all of this happened under one-party rule in the state,” Wilk said in a prepared statement. “Criminals know how to exploit California’s policies for their gain. 

“Fancy press conferences by the governor are not going to discourage one single crime. Californians deserve safer communities, and Republicans look forward to fighting for every neighbor, retailer and employer who is fed up with the Democrats’ ‘Criminals First’ public safety agenda. When Democrat policies fail, Republicans are there with good solutions,” said Wilk. 

In a letter to Gascón, Union Pacific officials expressed their displeasure with Gascón’s policies on bail and prosecution: “These individuals are generally caught and released back onto the streets in less than 24 hours. Criminals boast to our officers that charges will be pled down to simple trespassing – which bears no serious consequence.” 

Newsom on Thursday joined Union Pacific representatives, elected officials, law enforcement and Caltrans crews at the Union Pacific railroad in Los Angeles, the site of the recent spike in theft, to announce a multi-agency effort to clean up the railway and highlight the state’s efforts to combat theft and hold perpetrators accountable. 

Caltrans crews will assist Union Pacific in their efforts over the next few days to clean up the impacted area, said a statement issued by the governor’s office. Additionally, the California Highway Patrol will continue its efforts to coordinate with local law enforcement to help prevent theft on railways in Los Angeles. 

“What has happened on this stretch of the Union Pacific railroad is unacceptable,” said Newsom. “We are committed to an all-of-government approach to prevent thefts, prosecute the criminals involved, and clean up local communities.” 

One month ago, Newsom rolled out his proposed Real Public Safety Plan, which includes $255 million in grants for local law enforcement to increase presence at retail locations and combat organized retail crime, along with $18 million to create a dedicated state team of special investigators and prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute cross-jurisdictional theft-related crimes. The plan also calls for the creation of a permanent Smash and Grab Enforcement Unit operated by the CHP that will work with local law enforcement to crack down on organized rail, retail and auto theft in counties across the state. 

Gascón issued the following statement to Fox 11 in response to concerns raised by Union Pacific and lawmakers: “Our office is committed to working with law enforcement to ensure collective safety across Los Angeles County’s sprawling infrastructure, whether it’s at our ports or on railroad tracks. Some cases presented to our office by Union Pacific have been filed, such as burglary and grand theft, while others have been declined due to insufficient evidence. We make charging decisions based on the evidence. Our office takes Union Pacific’s concerns seriously and hopes to discuss this issue more in the coming weeks.” 

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