Railroad cargo theft boom result of politicians not doing their jobs


Walking with a trash bag, a ball cap fixed on his head, and a T-shirt more likely to be from Neiman Marcus than T.J. Maxx, Gov. Gavin Newsom made the most of a photo op intended to show his seriousness in stopping the great train raids of Los Angeles. While not wearing military insignia, Newsom could easily have been mistaken for Capt. Obvious when he said the railroad cargo theft boom “is just not acceptable.”

A few months ago, smash-and-grab store-jackings were trending in California. Attention has turned to the pillaging of rail cars carrying packages on the Union Pacific Railroad line near downtown Los Angeles.

“Keep hearing of train burglaries in LA on the scanner so went to #LincolnHeights to see it all,” CBS Los Angeles reporter John Schreiber tweeted on Jan. 13. “And … there’s looted packages as far as the eye can see. Amazon packages, UPS boxes, unused COVID tests, fishing lures, epi pens. Cargo containers left busted open on trains.” The volume of emptied packaging became so massive that heavy machinery was called in to help with clean-up. Manpower alone wasn’t enough.

Newsom compared the scene to “a Third World country.”

“I see what you see,” Newsom said. “I see what you’ve been covering. I see what everybody’s seeing, asking myself, what the hell is going on?”

Someone should tell him that criminals are growing bolder in California because they see an easy mark. It’s become a “plunderers’ paradise.”

Schreiber said the area is a prime spot for bandits because “trains frequently slow or stop in this area” for repairs, and “thieves use this opportunity to break open containers and take what’s inside.” Every fourth or fifth rail car he saw “had opened containers.”

“Missing a package? Shipment delayed? Maybe your package is among the thousands we found discarded along the tracks. This is but one area thieves have targeted trains. We were told this area was just cleaned up 30 days ago so what you see is all within the last month.”

In late December, Union Pacific told Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón that thefts from its trains increased 160 percent in Los Angeles County in the last year, and “in October 2021 alone, the increase was 356 percent over compared to October 2020.”

“On average, over 90 containers (are) compromised per day,” the railroad’s director of public affairs wrote Gascón in a letter, and more than 100 arrests have been made. Yet out “of all those arrests,” Union Pacific “has not been contacted for any court proceedings.”

Predictably, the George Soros-approved progressive prosecutor who’d rather not prosecute shifted responsibility back to Union Pacific, saying the railroad presented fewer cases to his office in 2021 than during the previous two years, and a portion of them could not be filed because they lacked the standard of evidence he demands before pursuing cases.

Newsom is angry about the train looting and was sure to convey his feelings. He declared that “we need all of us to recognize our collective and individual responsibility to do more and start supporting one another and address these issues,” a statement that sounds more vacuous with every playback of the video.

Elected officials from Newsom on down continue to fail their constituents and give their opponents more opportunities to say, “I told you so.” But “I told you so” is no more effective than demanding we all need “to recognize our collective and individual responsibility.”

What would help is for lawmakers and prosecutors to admit that their campaign to achieve “social justice” has emboldened a criminal class that responds to incentives the same way consumers do. Acknowledgement is the first step to recovery.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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