Multiple Agencies Clean Up Homeless Camps in Santa Barbara
Source: Santa Barbara Police Department
On June 23, 2021, a multi-agency collaboration between Santa Barbara City Environmental Services and Streets Division, Santa Barbara Police, Amtrak Police, and Union Pacific Police conducted camp cleanups along the railroad tracks within the City of Santa Barbara yesterday.
Since COVID struck last year, there has been a concern with homeless mobility and potentially spreading the virus to others within our community. When the Governor lifted restrictions last week, this allowed Officers to begin assisting with camp cleanups again in certain areas. This particular enforcement detail is unique, being that the railroad tracks are owned mostly by Union Pacific and are private property.
Starting from Castillo Street and moving east, Officers, Union Pacific crews, and Environmental Services walked the railroad tracks towards the eastern most reaching portion of the City near Channel Drive. Those found trespassing on the railroad’s private property were issued citations and asked to leave. All the individuals complied with the Officer's requests and packed up their belongs and left.
A total of 15 citations were issued. Citations ranged from 369(i) PC – Trespassing on Railroad Property to narcotic violations. Backhoes were used to collect nearly 5,500 pounds of remaining trash and debris that was hauled away with multiple trailers.
“The main goal is to protect lives. People walking, sleeping, and camping near the railroad tracks is extremely dangerous.” According to Operation Lifesaver Inc., a non-profit organization of rail safety education, California is ranked as the number one state for pedestrian trespassing casualties. As of April 2021, there have been 136 deaths and 117 injuries reported from the Federal Railroad Administration within the last year. These casualties are directly associated with individuals trespassing on the railroad right-of-way. Texas is listed as second, with 31 deaths and 60 injuries.
The Santa Barbara Police Department has partnered in the past with Amtrak Police for railroad safety, education, and enforcement details. These details focus on pedestrians trespassing on railroad property, as well as pedestrians and vehicles ducking under or driving around railroad crossing gate-arms found at roadway and sidewalk crossings. “If the gate-arms are down, lights are flashing, the bell is ringing, wait to cross, even if you don’t see a train approaching!”
In addition to the railroad cleanup, park closure enforcement is also being enforced again. Enforcement checks started last Friday at Alameda Park. Officers offer services to those who have erected tents or are camping in the park prior to any enforcement action occurring. Those who refuse services such as the use of local shelters, mental health services, or City Net of Santa Barbara can be issued a citation for illegal camping or remaining in a park after closing hours if they refuse to leave.
More cleanup efforts are expected to continue throughout the next several months.