Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

February 20, 2010

Trespassers beware

Dear Editor,

On the early afternoon of February 16, being a nice day, I decided to walk the four blocks from my home to Homeland Pharmacy to pick up my prescription medication.

As I walked south to the end of East Coffee Ave. and to the well-worn short-cut trail across the railroad tracks, a train approached. I saw it was a rather long train so as I crossed Earl St., I decided to wait for the passing train at the edge of the street at the beginning of the trail.

As I watched the passing train, a Pauls Valley City Police car pulled up to me and stopped. I turned to greet the officer, who I assumed just wanted to have a friendly chat on such a pleasant day.

He asked me if I was just train watching or if I intended to cross the tracks there. A little confused by the question, I answered I was going to cross after the train passed.

The officer advised me that if I continued across the tracks at that location, he would have to consider that a trespass! He further stated I was required to walk the block down to the “public” street crossing to avoid the trespass charge.

With total shock, I pointed to the VERY well worn path that has been used for years as the short-cut access to all the stores and businesses on the south side of the railroad tracks.

The officer just said he had been instructed to enforce the trespass law regarding all pedestrian railroad crossings.

I looked at the officer in total disbelief waiting for him to reveal the joke when it became apparent he was serious.

Many comments entered my mind at that time, all of which would have led to an unpleasant confrontation which I would have undoubtedly been the loser, so I simply started the extra block walk to the “proper” crossing area.

Many people cross at this location every day, so if indeed this is an issue our law enforcement deems important, we have a major criminal trespassing problem here in Pauls Valley.

Perhaps however it is just a case of police boredom. Had that officer driven the four blocks down to the intersection of East Ave., Coffee Ave., Locust Street and Jefferson he might have caught one of the many speeders that regularly run the stop sign there endangering the many children in this area.

If that same officer had looked at the parking lot at Homeland grocery, he would have seen one of the many in this area who regularly drive on the “donut” spare which is not only illegal, it is dangerous to all drivers on the same road.

Instead of working to reduce crimes and violations that have a real impact on the public safety, this officer chose to force one old man to walk several blocks out of his way (bad back and all) so he could prove to this potential lawbreaker he was doing his job.

As a final hedge against officer boredom, maybe a severe budget cut would help.

Fewer bored cops cruising around would mean the ones left would perhaps have time to concentrate on REAL crime enforcement and evoke a small amount of common sense in the process.

Finally, if in fact, the trespassing law is a real concern to law enforcement in Pauls Valley, we need to install a proper pedestrian crossing at this location. The well established trail shows the apparent need for a “legal” crossing and the trespassing crime reduction will more than justify any cost.

Otherwise, place barriers and signs clearly stating the law and warning all unsuspecting trespassers.

This would relieve law enforcement the need of a 24/7 patrol and surveillance of this high crime area.

Richard Dunham

Pauls Valley