Authorities target Glendale and Los Angeles scofflaws in illegal rail-crossing crackdown


Hoping to curb dangerous behavior, deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, along with Glendale police officers, spent Tuesday morning cracking down on pedestrians and drivers who illegally crossed railroad tracks.

The enforcement effort, called Operation Clear Track, was organized, in part, by Metrolink and specifically targeted rail crossings along San Fernando Road at Doran, Branford and Sheldon streets, which were chosen because of their histories involving people crossing them illegally, resulting in tragic consequences, rail agency officials said.

Since 2011, two fatalities have occurred at the Doran crossing, three vehicles were hit at Branford and one pedestrian was struck by a train at Sheldon, according to Metrolink.

Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, who sits on Metrolink’s board of directors as second vice-chair, said the operation wasn’t about punishing people; it was about raising awareness.

“We want all residents, whether you’re driving, walking or riding, to pay attention to the [train] signals,” he said. “We want you to be safe. We want the passengers of the train to be safe.”

Operation Clear Track is part of a larger, nationwide campaign spearheaded by the nonprofit Operation Lifesaver, which named September as Rail Safety Month. The group works to help raise awareness about railroad safety with the goal of reducing collisions and fatalities that result from illegally crossing tracks.

Sarah Logan, assistant coordinator for the California chapter of Lifesaver, said a person or vehicle is struck by a train in the United States every three hours.

She also said California is ranked No. 1 in fatalities and injuries of people who trespass onto train tracks and No. 2 in incidents involving railroad crossings.

“These statistics are numbers we are working to change,” she said.

Capt. Karl Schow with the sheriff’s Metrolink bureau said three citations were issued Tuesday morning to vehicles attempting to illegally cross railroad tracks — including a work truck that drove through an intersection while the crossing gates were coming down.

Authorities also detained a man who was caught walking along the train tracks.

Schow said it’s important for pedestrians and motorists to know that railroad tracks are “a very dangerous place to be” and they must be aware of the laws when crossing.

“It’s also important that, when the arms go down, you have to stop,” he said. “It is just a dangerous proposition to try and cross those tracks.”

In addition to Tuesday’s enforcement, Schow said authorities will continue to conduct rail-crossing enforcement operations throughout the month and plan to do at least one operation every month for the rest of the year.

Twitter: @Andy_Truc