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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

165 years of railroad police progress

Written by  Chip Greiner

It took a series of petty thefts in 1847 on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in the City of Baltimore to see the need for special law enforcement protection for the railroads.

With the commissioning of a police officer by the City of Baltimore to be employed by the B&O, it began a steady progression of law enforcement service that has lasted through a Civil War, two World Wars, and through the threat of global terrorism.

A lot has changed on the railroad since 1847—or has it? Technology certainly has lent a hand in increasing the speed, safety and service on our railroads, but some basic fundamentals remain the same. Trains hauling freight still travel on steel rails spaced 4 feet 8 ½ inches on wooden ties and are operated by an engineer and conductor. Thieves also still target railroads. Thefts may no longer be livestock, whiskey, or cigarettes, but they are just as costly. Today’s thieves use 4-wheel drive vehicles instead of horses to access the right of way, and target containerized shipments stealing TV’s, clothing, and electronics.

To keep pace, today’s railroad law enforcement relies on a close working partnership with local, county, state, and federal law enforcement.

Railroads have some strong historical roots in fighting crime. In early 1898, railroad police chiefs were faced with an increasing wave of criminal activity sweeping the country. They saw the need to share information to get a handle on the problem. They met in June in Omaha, Neb., formed the Railroad Police and Special Agent’s Association, and published a monthly magazine, which shared mug shots, Bertillon measurements, and “Wanted” fliers of criminals. This began the first use of organized criminal intelligence by a law enforcement group.

The Association of American Railroads picked up the baton in the 1930’s with the AAR “Protective Section”. In the early 1990s the Railroad Police Section of the International Association of Chiefs of Police took over the duties from the AAR.

In 2005, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association saw the need to assist the more than 525 short line and regional railroads with a committee to deal with security and law enforcement issues on their properties. The Police and Security Committee of the ASLRRA was formed with seven founding members, and is currently staffed by 25 industry professionals, who have diverse backgrounds in law enforcement, security, and railroad safety. This committee meets several times a year and holds bi-monthly conference calls in order to stay on point with hot-button issues. These issues range from the training of our mandated Rail Security Coordinators to dealing with the escalating problem of scrap metal theft from member railroads.

The committee is ambitious in its goals and is actively working on about 15 “action” items. These items include the study of federalization of railroad police officers and the assessment of in-house law enforcement vs. contracted law enforcement on short line railroads. We are taking steps to enhance and streamline the communication of time-sensitive security information while also finding more effective ways in reaching the hourly employees on the property. We are working with one of our private security members to complete and issue a simplified Route Analysis tool for use by Class II and Class III railroads. The committee is developing two model training programs for outreach training to our local emergency first responders. By giving them the required training and industry knowledge, they will be in better position to respond to emergencies that may occur on our properties. Other important goals include the development of a two week training course for law enforcement and a computer based training model to train our in-house Rail Security Coordinators as well as examining security clearance “best practices” for short line railroads.

Close relationships are kept with security representatives of the FRA and TSA in an effort to review and enact new security rules that affect the industry. Partnerships have been developed with the Institute of Scrap Recyclers Industry with the expansion and use of their “Metal Theft Alert “email system. This is another avenue the committee is taking in its efforts to curb metal thefts and arrest violators and prosecute thefts of railroad track materials.

America’s short line and regional railroads remain focused on security best practices such as updated hazardous materials security training, and security awareness for railroad employees. Relationships with state criminal intelligence fusion centers are being established. Routine information regarding suspicious activity on one railroad can be directed to other law enforcement agencies and industrial stakeholders through these centers to be examined. Cooperation remains the cornerstone of success as we fight against criminal activity and the threat of terrorism on our nation’s railroads.

Chip Greiner has been the Chief of Police for the Morristown & Erie Railway since 2004 and has 36 years of experience in municipal, county and railroad law technologies was DP (distributed power), introduced in the 1970s. DP allows longer and heavier trains to be operated safely. “Over the years, DP has improved,” says Beck. “NYAB began working with Harris (now part of GE) to integrate their Locotrol DP system with our electronic brake. NYAB’s second version of the computer-controlled brake, CCBII, eliminated a manifold, extended COT&S (Clean, Oil, Test & Stencil) to eight years, and improved reliability.”