Newsom Apologizes After Likening Train Theft 'Groups' to Gangs
On the grounds that lawbreakers of a certain quality need to be called by such names as will not offend their delicate sensibilities, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly backpedaled after using the wrong g-word to describe thieves stealing packages from trains.
The Union Pacific Railroad recently estimated that thefts from trains that stop in Los Angeles are up 160 percent and has begged for the government to do something to help the railroad crack down on the thieves.
Newsom held a news conference Thursday — near a spot where the tracks were littered with debris from packages that have been looted from containers — and spoke stern words that immediately needed to be qualified.
“This is not one-off,” Newsom said, according to the Washington Times. “This is organized theft. These are organized gangs of people that are coming out.”
“Forgive me for saying ‘gangs,’ that’s not a pejorative,” he said next. “They’re organized groups of folks that move from site to site.”
As you can see, trains frequently slow or stop in this area as they get worked into the @UnionPacific Intermodal facility near Downtown LA. The thieves use this opportunity to break open containers and take what’s inside. I’d say every 4th or 5th rail car had opened containers. pic.twitter.com/PHpujyB84M
— John Schreiber (@johnschreiber) January 13, 2022
Newsom said the state would conduct a multi-pronged effort to limit thefts and clean up the debris.
“When there’s more attention, a bright light on one site, they move to the next site,” Newsom continued. “While these folks are arrested as if they’re individuals that are not connected to the whole, and we need to change that.”
Although Newsom shied away from the use of the word “gang,” he said that he would support prosecuting train thieves under organized crime laws, which would have harsher penalties, according to KSWB-TV.
“We make charging decisions based on the evidence,” said Alex Bastian, an adviser to L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón, according to KSWB-TV. “Our office takes Union Pacific’s concerns seriously and hopes to discuss this issue more in the coming weeks.”
Newsom also said he was appalled at the trash along the tracks.
“I’m asking myself, what the hell is going on?” he said, KSWB-TV reported. “It looked like a third world country, these images, the drone images that were on the nightly news.”
Why is he asking himself that? Look in the mirror Gavin! https://t.co/Juq2QNGVz4
— Kevin Faulconer (@Kevin_Faulconer) January 21, 2022
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? No, it’s California under a political system with no consequences for this criminal activity. @cbsla https://t.co/p0y5mr3peu
— Kevin Faulconer (@Kevin_Faulconer) January 19, 2022
Soft-on-crime policies were identified by the railroad as part of the problem.
“While rail theft is a national issue … it’s a state issue here in California. … The difference is how the criminal justice system and how local law enforcement hold these criminals accountable with legal consequences, and that is not the case in LA County,” explained Adrian Guerrero, Union Pacific’s director of public affairs for California, according to Fox News.
Guerrero said earlier this month that a lack of action concerning the continued thefts is “incredibly disappointing and frustrating.”
“But that’s the reality of what Union Pacific has been facing over the past year, and it’s helping us shine a light on this issue. I think it’s a call to action for a number of stakeholders involved in this issue because … there are a number of folks being impacted by this,” he said.
In December 2021, Guerrero wrote Gascon to seek help.
“In several months during that period, the increase from the previous year surpassed 200%. In October 2021 alone, the increase was 356% over compared to October 2020,” the letter said.
“Not only do these dramatic increases represent retail product thefts — they include increased assaults and armed robberies of UP employees performing their duties moving trains.”
Guerrero estimated that Union Pacific has suffered $5 million in damage to its trains.
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