Stopped trains delaying first responders in Forest Park

The Forest Park police chief says stopped trains are costing first responders valuable response time.

He says trains can stall for up to five hours at a time, forcing officers to find other ways around when responding to emergencies.

It's a problem in Forest Park that’s not coming down the tracks, but it’s stuck on them.

"There will be a train going down the tracks and it will just stop and be there for hours at a time," Chief Brandon Criss said. 

Forest Park Police Chief Brandon Criss says it’s an issue that’s not just frustrating, but causes dangerous delays when responding to 911 calls, every minute counts. 

"Just the other week we had an emergency on Forest Parkway and officers had to go down nearly a mile because the train was blocking the track to get there," Criss said. 

While different companies use the tracks the rails are owned by Atlanta-based Norfolk Southern. 

The tracks run through the heart of the city of Forest Park.

"I’ve seen on several occasions where kids couldn’t get across the tracks and they crawled under the train. Disabled people...I’ve seen them find alternative routes to getting around the train," Criss said.

FOX 5 put in a call and was told this rail line is near a major rail yard and there was a nearby underpass that could be used as a detour.

In a statement officials say: 

"We make every effort to avoid inconveniencing communities with a stopped train, and in Forest Park, our teams are instructed to keep the downtown crossings open whenever possible. Trains do have to stop for a number of reasons, including at designated points approaching our facilities, or other reasons, like mechanical issues or crew rest time. Our goal is to keep our trains moving safely and the teams within our Network Operations Center make every effort to minimize these events. We also partner with communities to identify short-term and permanent solutions such as overpasses and closing crossings, where it makes sense. That includes contributing funds directly to communities and helping them to apply for infrastructure grants."

As for Chief Criss he’s not waiting for change from the company. Criss is being proactive in training officers how to prepare.

"Making sure our officers are maintaining beat integrity and what that means is whatever beat they are assigned to is if they are on the other side of the train tracks then they stay on the other side. Also making sure our officers know all the side roads and shortcuts they can get to," Criss said.