CHAPMANVILLE — The CSX Police Department out of Huntington has authorized the Chapmanville Police Department to issue warnings and citations or arrest those who trespass on railroad tracks in the town, and the town is asking residents to take video of offenders to help identify them.
Chapmanville Police Chief Alan Browning addressed the letter, sent to him May 6, during the town council’s regular session via Zoom on Tuesday, May 12. ATVs have been reported speeding along the railroad tracks within the town’s limits, a trespassing offense.
The town’s police department can now warn, cite and/or arrest trespassers on CSX property, and CSX will appear in court as the victim of the crime.
Acting Mayor Terilyn Wilson said the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System is in the process of giving the town five signs to post to help stop the issue, although the problem isn’t being caused by trail riders, according to councilman Joel McNeely, who said there have been numerous complaints.
“The ATVs that they’re complaining about are not connected with the Hatfield-McCoy trail riders,” McNeely said. “Some of these are coming from as far away as Henlawson and even down at Big Creek. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail people have permission to ride on the pavement, and they do so. The ones that we have that are running their vehicles along the railroad track are trespassing on CSX property and annoying the residents of the town. Some of these, we know who they are, some we don’t.”
Browning said he has instructed his officers not to chase any offenders if they flee because pursuing someone on railroad tracks — especially on an ATV — would be too much of a liability.
McNeely asked Browning if his cruisers are equipped to take video of the offenders, which Browning said they are not. McNeely then urged residents who see people walking, riding ATVs, bicycles or anything along the railroad tracks to use their smartphones to try to get clear video of the vehicle and the person to help identify them.
“What I have told some of the people who have come to me with the problem is if you can video, just get a video of the vehicle and the person to where we can identify who they are, then maybe we can at least go talk with them, give them a warning, and if that doesn’t work, go from there,” McNeely said.
Riding or walking along railroad property is prohibited by the railroad and considered trespassing, McNeely said.
“Having worked for them, having 35 involvements with the public, that’s what I call it, never once was the railroad at fault. At least five times, it resulted in death and usually injury, destruction of property, things of that nature,” he said. “Maybe if an example is made of a couple of them, it’ll put fear into the rest of them, who knows.”
McNeely also agreed that police should not pursue suspects.
“It might cause the individual to take chances and cause them to wreck, and we don’t want loss of life,” he said. “Really, if you can get videos of people doing anything about the railroad tracks, I know CSX would greatly appreciate it.”