Trespassers on local train tracks have been stopped and given a ticket in an aggressive enforcement this week from San Luis Obispo to Oxnard. One man who police say was carrying drugs, was arrested in Santa Barbara.
Union Pacific Railroad Special Police Agent Jorge Villaescusa said the task force is very serious about keeping people off the tracks, and keeping drivers from going around the crossing signs when they are activated.
“You have two tracks here. Just because one train is passing on one track doesn't mean the other track won't be used,” said Villaescusa. “We want to educate the public that you cannot cross tracks where you are not supposed to. You have to go to a legal crossing and you can only cross at legal crossings.”
Villaescusa says at times, when the train is stopped at the station, drivers in cars on Montecito St. nearby try to go around the crossing arms that come down, and go across the tracks, instead of waiting. That could lead to a serious collision. The driver can also be cited.
The safety group Operation Lifesaver is also working at depots where the enforcement is taking place. At the Santa Barbara Station, Rexford Leong had information and pamphlets for passengers and anyone looking for safety tips about driving and walking near the tracks.
"If you are not at a designated crossing for pedestrians or automobiles, at that point you are trespassing on railroad property. You have to wait until the gates are totally up and the lights stop flashing and the bells stop ringing. That is a good time to cross. Any other time is not a good time," said Leong. He is also a train conductor who sees the challenges on the tracks all the time, including homeless camps, debris near the rails, and people walking in the right of way.
The enforcement team was in San Luis Obispo on Monday. They spend Tuesday and Wednesday in Santa Barbara, Thursday in Ventura and Friday in Oxnard.
One man in Santa Barbara was in handcuffs this afternoon. He was caught trespassing. However,when the Union Pacific officers arrived the man reportedly put up a struggle, and once he was subdued they found out he was carrying drugs.
Santa Barbara Police were also called in to assist.
The cost for a trespassing ticket in violation of the railroad right of way is $471.