Amtrak police chief talks collaboration with Coast law enforcement

Double the speed and double the rail usage. That means double the effort at safety.
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 5:19 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Freight rail moves about 35 miles an hour.

Amtrak passenger rail moves at 79 miles an hour.

Double the speed and double the rail usage.

That means double the effort at safety.

“Freight trains, passenger trains somewhere in the country every three hours, there’s a strike with a train,” said Amtrak Chief of Police Sam Dotson. “Most of those, if not all of those, are avoidable through education.”

To help with that, Dotson met Wednesday with police chiefs all across the Coast.

“The opportunity here is for local police to work on an educational campaign and an enforcement campaign,” he said.

In addition to increased safety messaging through social media, Dotson said you’ll see increased visibility by law enforcement at rail crossings.

Amtrak will do its part by increasing the number of officers dedicated to this new regional service.

“Sometimes, they’re in the train stations; we have officers that are stationed in the New Orleans station,” Dotson said. “Sometimes they ride the trains with our passengers and our crews. Sometimes they patrol the right of way doing traffic enforcement.”

For Coast law enforcement agencies, which already have working relationships with CSX, networking is invaluable.

“It’s always good to know what partnerships you can make ahead of time and who you need to contact in case there is an emergency or just general information about when they will be running, how many times they will be running a day, and what those stops will look like along the Coast,” said Gulfport Police Chief Adam Cooper. “It was really reassuring to find out how many resources they do bring.”

As of now, Amtrak has 450 officers serving 46 states.

There will be future meetings with other Coast first responders.

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