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Gavin Newsom clarifies calling train thieves 'gangs': 'Forgive me ... They're organized groups'

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom clarified this week that when he called criminals accused of stealing packages from cargo trains in the state "gangs of people" he wasn't implying the thefts were gang-related. 

"This is not one-off," Newsom said in a news conference near Union Pacific Railroad tracks in Los Angeles on Thursday, 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 clarified. "They're organized groups of folks that move from site to site."

"Forgive me for saying 'gangs.' … They're organized groups of folks that move from site to site."

— California Gov. Gavin Newsom

The governor announced a multi-agency effort to deter theft, hold perpetrators accountable and clean up the railroad tracks. He said the thieves could be charged under organized crime laws, which would carry harsher penalties, according to FOX 5 in Los Angeles.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits a Union Pacific railroad site on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, in Los Angeles. (Associated Press)

NEWSOM TORCHED FOR COMPARING LA TRASH PILEUP TO THIRD WORLD COUNTRY: 'CLUELESS' 

Los Angeles is infamous for its street gangs. 

"When there's more attention, a bright light on one site, they move to the next site," Newsom added, according to the Times. "While these folks are arrested as if they're individuals that are not connected to the whole, and we need to change that."

Men look over a railing at a Union Pacific railroad site on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, in Los Angeles. (Associated Press)

Newsom was also criticized for saying the trash along the tracks created by the looting looked like a "third world country."

Conservatives placed blame on the governor for supporting Democratic policies that they claimed have led to lawlessness. 

"Look in the mirror Gavin," former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who challenged Newsom in last year's recall election, tweeted. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom removes cardboard from a Union Pacific railroad site on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, in Los Angeles. (Associated Press)

Others pointed out that "third world country" is considered an antiquated term. 

"Hello, @GavinNewsom: the term 'Third world country' was replaced by 'developing nation' like, 25 years ago," Los Angeles reporter Doug Sovern criticized. 

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Union Pacific Railroad's Adrian Guerrero said rising retail theft crime in Los Angeles County over the past year is part of the problem in a Dec. 20 letter to Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon. UP experienced a 160% increase in criminal rail theft in Los Angeles County over the past year. 

Newsom's office didn't immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment. 

Fox News' Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report. 

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