- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - As a modified Chevrolet Suburban rumbled down the CSX railroad tracks on a recent Saturday afternoon near Buckeystown Pike, two Maryland Natural Resources Police officers kept their eyes peeled on the trees lining the tracks.

“There he is!” Officer Laura Albrecht exclaimed, pointing out an irregular shape sitting in a stand about a hundred yards from the tracks as their truck squealed to a stop. “And he’s not wearing any orange, either.”

Her partner, Officer Cody Linton, leaned across the truck cab to see for himself, nodding in agreement as he peered into the nearby tree line through a pair of camo-print hunter’s binoculars.

“Unless he’s the property owner, that’s a good $200 fine right there,” Linton said.

A few minutes later, Albrecht and Linton emerged from the woods leading Pennsylvania resident Jacob Wayne Roderick back toward the truck. Roderick was cited for hunting without a license and failure to wear fluorescent orange, violations that carry a maximum of $700 in fines.

Roderick also didn’t have written permission to hunt on the property, which he was required to have with him. Albrecht wrote him only a warning, though, after the property owner said Roderick was allowed to hunt on her property.

Meanwhile, Linton wrote two warnings for a second man found hunting with Roderick, Chad Michael Johns - for hunting without a license in his possession and hunting without a secondary form of identification.

“Not a bad day, overall,” Linton said as the truck pulled back into the Point of Rocks station 45 minutes later, at about 5:30 p.m., bringing the five-hour special patrol to a close.

The idea for a joint CSX and Natural Resources Police patrol came about after an officer on patrol in 2013 spotted an unauthorized vehicle using a service road that runs along the CSX tracks in Frederick County, said Lt. Steven Muse, who oversees Frederick and Washington counties as NRP’s Area 7 commander.

“It turns out that the guy was an Amtrak contractual worker who was driving his personal vehicle up and down the path, on CSX property, hunting illegally,” Muse said. “And when our officer contacted CSX special agents and told them what he had, they told him that was actually a fairly common issue.”

The next season, in 2014, Natural Resources Police officers and CSX employees began hitting the rails together in Maryland and West Virginia, Rob Doolittle, a CSX spokesman, wrote in an email response to The Frederick News-Post’s questions.

Each patrol includes a CSX employee or conductor to drive the truck, a CSX special agent with the authority to write citations for track-related offenses - mainly trespassing on CSX property - and at least one NRP officer to enforce hunting violations, Muse said.

“Our strategy was that, the CSX conductors, they observe hunting violations routinely, so during the times they are working, they make note of where they see people hunting illegally, setting up stands or walking up the tracks with a shotgun,” Muse said. “They take note of where they are seeing all of these things for us.”

As the truck drove out to Mount Airy and back, the officers and CSX employees were constantly pointing out tree stands and sharing information about recent activity along the tracks.

“We should make sure to check this when we come back,” Linton said at one point as the truck rolled past an empty stand set up just off CSX property.

While hunters using the stand could be perfectly within their rights, the stand was set up fairly close to several residences abutting CSX property, Linton pointed out.

“Chances are, if they’re setting up that close to the tracks, they’re probably shooting onto CSX property,” he said.

Typically the patrols deploy in one of CSX’s road-rail or “hi-rail” vehicles, a truck with special front and rear steel wheel bars that can be lowered to fit the truck to railroad tracks.

Every aspect of the patrol is designed to assist the officers, even down to using unassuming white CSX trucks that hunters aren’t accustomed to seeing officers use. Following the tracks themselves lets officers reach areas that aren’t accessible to them on their regular patrol routes.

Neither Natural Resources Police nor CSX Transportation keep numbers that specifically quantify the effect of the special patrols - all citations and arrests made on the patrol are lumped in with the police agency’s regional totals. Nonetheless, the patrols are considered a success, according to an email statement by Doolittle.

“I can say these efforts have significantly reduced the incidence of trespassing and unauthorized hunting since they began and have strengthened the relationships between CSX and the Maryland and West Virginia natural resources departments,” Doolittle wrote.

Back on the tracks, Linton signaled for the truck to stop as it rumbled through Monocacy National Battlefield, past a large herd of deer. Grabbing his binoculars, Linton pointed out a lone impressive buck presiding over the herd, nervously watching the truck from across the grassy field.

“That’s a nice buck, and, as a hunter, even knowing this is park property, it’s really hard if you’re looking at a big buck like that not to pull the trigger,” Linton said, shaking his head as the herd began to move on. “That’s why we’re here.”

___

Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, https://www.fredericknewspost.com


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