Both in the district and nation-wide, Canadian National Railways is focusing tightly on catching trespassers. And for the first time in 17 years, Fort Frances has its own CN police officer.
As of Jan. 1, Cst. Peter LeDrew, formerly a Canada Customs officer here for about 10 years, will be keeping a close eye on the tracks to look for offenders.
“Our responsibility is the protection of railroad property, the protection of the public, and involvement in the community, with groups such as the district Substance Abuse Prevention (SAP) team, Crime Stoppers and ‘Operation Lifesaver,’” Cst. LeDrew said Monday.
“My goal is to address the serious trespassing problem in Fort Frances,” he added. “It’s a serious concern because the train crews can’t go around the trespasser.
“They already face enough stress as it is without having to worry about someone on the tracks,” he stressed.
Cst. LeDrew said he’s been active issuing warnings to trespassers—whether they be snowmobilers or on foot—in an effort to raise the profile of the offence.
“Starting in February, we’ll be giving out fines, though,” he noted, adding the fines—set at a minimum of $70—will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
“People have been [trespassing] all their lives here. But there’s a definite increase in the number of trains passing through here and I want to make it clear, it’s a problem,” Cst. LeDrew said.
“It’s tough to point out one specific area in town where there’s trespassing because the tracks pass through many different areas where’s there’s a high volume of trespassers,” he added.
He noted children living in the north end and attending Robert Moore School are one key group of offenders. He hopes to raise awareness among parents to warn their children of the dangers of crossing the tracks.
Cst. LeDrew also stressed stopped “live trains” can be a hazard to pedestrians and vehicles given the apparently inert locomotives can start moving at any moment.
Last year, 26 people in Ontario were killed by trains while trespassing on CN property. Another 12 were seriously injured.
Cst. LeDrew noted anyone can report incidents of trespassing to CN police by calling 1-800-465-9239.