Norfolk Southern, the company that had a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, devastating the city, has had yet another train derailment. This one was near Springfield, Ohio over the weekend.
The East Palestine accident occurred on February 3rd, the next one happened on February 16th in southeast Michigan where 30 train cars went off the tracks, and the third one was this Saturday.
The Columbus Dispatch says that 28 cars of a 212-car train “went off the tracks Saturday while traveling south near Springfield, Ohio.” The train contained no passengers or hazardous material and there was no risk to the public reported. Nevertheless, the Clark County Emergency Management Agency told the residents within 1,000 to “shelter in place.” About 50 people also lost power after the train derailment.
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When doing a deep dive into the company, I found that the Federal Railroad Adminstration says in their 10-year safety summary that Norfolk Southern has seen a whopping 163.6 derailments and 2.9 hazardous material releases per year on average. This was reported by the Pennsylvania Capital Star. Although they report that most of the derailments are relatively benign with no spills and no one getting hurt, they say “the frequency of these incidents is hard to miss.”
Axios also reported a meeting with Norfolk South executives weeks before the East Palestine accident where they discussed the rise in accident rates in recent years.
Whether the derailments are happening because of sabotage by a third party, a train that is too heavy or two long or going too fast, problems with the tracks, short staffing, substandard equipment, lax regulations, bad management, budgetary issues, bad maintenance or something else, the latest video of the train derailment near Springfield, Ohio showed one problem for sure. Graffiti appears on many of the train cars. That means the company is not able to secure their train cars. If someone can get to their train cars to paint graffiti on them, they can surely do something far more sinister to the cars.
And no one seems to care. Google “train graffiti” and you will find articles that treat it like a grand artistic expression and not a crime. The writers like to glorify it. “Beyond the Streets” points says it’s a way of “connecting with one another outside of their own cities.”
The vandals are called graffiti “artists” instead of graffiti criminals.
In Seattle (no surprise) graffiti in the city is out of control. KIRO 7 reported last week that since 2019, graffiti complaints to the city have grown over 50%, including almost 20,000 reports of graffiti and tagging in 2021 alone. “Sire One” a well known graffiti criminal in the area talked with the news station and says the graffiti is a result of “a confluence of disorder, and lack of enforcement” and cites the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd.
What’s clear to see is when there is a lack of law enforcement for what is considered “petty” crime, you end up with more petty crime.
According to the Pennsylvania Capital Star article, freight yards are protected under federal laws for interstate commerce and any amount of damage to property over $1,000 is considered a felony. However, like most crimes occurring in America right now, I highly doubt this crime is being “prosecuted.” And if it is, chances are it’s being pled down to a misdemeanor.
Even after the events of September 11th and politicians promising that they would protect our infrastructure, we are STILL seeing graffiti on freight trains even though there are supposedly “bulls” (railroad police) protecting the yards from trespassing, theft and vandalism.
In doing research, I found that the freight cars can’t hit the rails again after being painted unless they have their federally required ID number and reflective railroad tape on them so everything is visible. However, the criminals know this and they often paint around the required identification marks so that their art stays on the rail cars as long as possible.
With the train companies unable to protect their rail cars from graffiti, I don’t have a lot of confidence that they can protect them from anything else – that includes the safety of their cars and the freight that they are carrying on those cars.
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