SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Multiple agencies from in and around Santa Barbara worked together Thursday to conduct a camp cleanup along the railroad tracks that run through the city.
Participating agencies included the Santa Barbara City Environmental Services and Streets Division, Santa Barbara Police, Amtrak Police and Union Pacific Police.
Since COVID-19 struck last year, there has been concern that the homeless community could catch and spread the virus to others.
After Gov. Newsom lifted many pandemic restrictions last week, SB Police said they were able to begin assisting with camp cleanups in certain areas. Officers said this particular enforcement detail was unique because the railroad tracks are mostly owned by Union Pacific and are considered private property.
Police from these agencies started their walk along the tracks at Castillo Street and moved east toward Channel Drive. Crews said anyone found trespassing on railroad private property were issued citations and asked to leave.
A total of 15 citations were issued Thursday, ranging from trespassing on railroad property to narcotics violations. SB Police said everyone they spoke with agreed to leave, packing up their belongings immediately.
Backhoes were then used to collect nearly 5,500 pounds of left behind trash and debris. According to police, multiple trailers were needed to haul away the litter.
“The main goal is to protect lives. People walking, sleeping, and camping near the railroad tracks is extremely dangerous,” said a nonprofit called Operation Lifesaver Inc., which focuses on rail safety education. According to them, California is ranked the number one state for pedestrian trespassing casualties.
Santa Barbara Police said that, as of April 2021, there have been 136 deaths and 117 injuries reported by the Federal Railroad Administration over the past year. These casualties are directly associated with individuals who trespassed on the railroad.
Police said, in addition to railroad cleanup, park closures are also being enforced again. Enforcement checks began last Friday at Alameda Park within the city.
Police said they did offer services to those who pitched tents or were camping inside the park prior to any enforcement actions. They said only those who refused to go to local shelters, get in touch with mental health services or work with City Net of Santa Barbara were issued citations for illegal camping or remaining in a park after closing hours.
Santa Barbara Police said their work isn't finished yet. More cleanup efforts are scheduled to take place throughout the next few months.