The Belt’s police force is making Illinois Rail Safety Week an important part of its tradition and commitment to community safety.
“It’s a combined effort, and it’s had a big impact on safety in the community,”
Members of the department participated in the Sept. 11-17 event with more than 300 state, local, county and railroad law enforcement agencies. The event’s organizers have praised Belt officers for being productive during the occasion even though they’re a smaller force.
“It was the best year by far,” Conoboy said.
Belt police focused on three locations and issued numerous warning citations during the weeklong event. At the busy intersection of 65th Street and Harlem Avenue, 19 warning citations were issued for stopping on the tracks and disobeying signals as a train approached. At 59th Street and Kenton Avenue, near Midway Airport, 45 warning citations were issued for stopping on tracks and trespassing. At 67th and Kenton Avenue, near Mariano Azuela Elementary School, 25 warning citations were issued for stopping on the tracks.
“It’s a combined effort, and it’s had a big impact on safety in the community.”
— Sergeant Gerald Conoby
In total, 89 tickets were issued, 777 fliers were distributed and 91 posters were hung in local businesses. That was 79 more posters than last year. Conoboy thanked Patrolman Ramon Ortiz for his efforts to engage the proprietors.
“It promotes positive relationships,” Conoboy said.
Belt police also distributed more than 300 promotional items, including key chains and fans. Conoboy boarded a CTA bus that was stopped at a crossing during the event to hand out key chains and offer those on board his safety message. Belt police also gave away bookmarks to children at the elementary school. Parents received Operation Lifesaver brochures.
Calling the week an opportunity for meaningful community outreach, Conoboy said rail safety week is about education and correcting dangerous behaviors. Based on his observations, one of the leading factors in causing irresponsible behavior is impatience by motorists and pedestrians who are in a rush. Belt police have noted numerous pedestrians trespassing on railroad property to bypass the crossing at 59th Street and Kenton Avenue. At the 65th Street and Harlem Avenue crossing, motorists, anxious to avoid waiting for a train, misjudge traffic flow and get stuck on the tracks.
The response from people who were engaged during the week was excellent, according to Conoboy.
“When you take the time to explain things, people are receptive,” he said. “It’s all about saving lives.”
Belt police do a similar outreach event every month on their own.