On July 2 the Ventura Police Department and Union Pacific Railroad held a joint violation enforcement operation that involved a Union Pacific police officer and Ventura police officers. The Union Pacific officer was Jorge O. Villaescusa, Senior Special Agent Public Safety.
Agent Villaescusa road on the train (actually just 2 engines connected back to back) and Ventura officers were on the train, were stationed at crossings and were on bicycles riding next to the tracks monitoring autos and people for violators.
The enforcement went from the Santa Clara River to Emma Woods campground as the train made several trips between the 2 areas.
It takes from one mile to 1 ½ miles for a loaded train to stop so pedestrians or vehicles that are on the tracks will most likely be hit as was the truck several months ago in Oxnard that resulted in the death of the train engineer and others. Amtrak trains can be extremely dangerous because they are so quiet and not heard by people thinking that it is romantic to walk down train tracks.
Several pedestrians waking along the tracks fled when confronted (to be issued tickets for walking adjacent to the railway) by police when the train stopped to speak with them. They were chased down and booked on miscellaneous charges by the VPD. Drivers who failed to yield at safety signals were also cited.
The Breeze asked Officer Jason Kohagen of the Ventura Police Department why this enforcement operation took place.
He told us “As far as the railroad operation goes, I started planning this operation in early May 2015. We had two pedestrians struck and killed along the tracks in the city in a very short time frame, and this perked my desire to try and come up with a solution plus the fatal Metrolink collision in Oxnard. I reached out to my supervisor and after getting the go ahead from him, I contacted the railroad. Logistically this was a challenging and complex operation to coordinate between the multiple agencies, and even the different work groups within the different agencies.”
“ The goal of this operation was public awareness. Often times motorists and pedestrians take for granted their ability to cross the tracks, not realizing that, legally, the only place to cross the tracks, is at the marked and designated crossings. Additionally at these crossings, if the lights are flashing, and bell sounding, it is illegal and unsafe to cross the tracks. If there are arms associated to the crossing, it is illegal to cross until the arms are completely back up, despite the train having passed. As a result of the enforcement associated with this event, two motorists were cited for going under the crossing arms as they were descending, and six pedestrians were cited for walking along the railroad right of way. Two of those pedestrians were arrested for outstanding warrants, and a third pedestrian was arrested for interfering with the operation of a train and assault on an officer. During this event Operation Life Saver information was handed out to inform pedestrians regarding grade crossing safety.”
For more photos of this operation visit www.venturabreeze.com.