Successfully Securing Rail Property is a Joint Agency Effort

By Chad Deasy, director-Homeland Security, Union Pacific

CBP Rail Inspection Portal | O

A Union Pacific train runs through a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System before being allowed to proceed on the Union Pacific rail network. 

With more than 32,000 miles of track in 23 states, Union Pacific’s vast network presents a challenge to secure and protect. Union Pacific employs 126 full-time railroad police officers also known as special agents, who are an integral part of the railroad’s mission to protect our communities and support the efficient operation of our rail network. Special agents patrol properties, yards, offices and facilities. Our team has established valuable relationships with local and federal law enforcement agencies to respond when crime occurs on Union Pacific property.

One unique challenge is “trespassers” -- individuals who enter our property without permission. Trespassing on rail property – especially on or near railroad tracks -- can be life threatening and a danger to our employees’ safety and the integrity of our customers’ shipments.

At Union Pacific, safety is our top priority and we have strict policies in place to prevent unauthorized access to our trains. We do not condone or facilitate illegal activity, and we will continue to seek the safe and humane treatment of everyone who encounters our company.

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Security cameras snapped a photo of this trespasser on railroad property.

When trespassers ignore warning signs, climb fences, walk on or near railway tracks and bridges, they risk getting severely injured or worse. That risk rises exponentially when trespassers climb or ride on our trains.

Recently, we’ve seen the tragic consequences when trespassers attempt to use trains to illegally cross the U.S./Mexico border. Border security is a concern for railroads and the U.S. government, and significant measures are in place to secure the border.

Those measures include using state-of-the-art technology such as sensors, cameras and drones to monitor tracks and detect suspicious activity. Every rail car entering the United States from Mexico or Canada is inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents using Vehicle and Cargo Inspection Systems (VACIS), K-9 units, and visual walking inspections. Many of these K-9 and walking inspections are jointly conducted between the Union Pacific and CBP since rail security at our borders is of mutual concern.

The VACIS system was introduced after 9/11 to inspect all loads coming across the border for illegal drugs, guns, currency and people. Essentially, the VACIS machine is like an x-ray system that uses gamma-ray imaging to verify the contents inside the package or container without having to break the container’s seal. Finding contraband before it makes its way into the United States is crucial to the safety and security of the railroad, its employees, and the communities we serve.

Since the VACIS was put in place, our combined efforts were responsible for detecting more than 300 incidents where illegal contraband attempted to cross the border on a Union Pacific train, amounting to approximately 55K kilos of drugs seized. In addition, on average around 100 people are apprehended attempting to cross the border on our trains each year.

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Special Agent William Becker inspects a train with a K-9 in Nogales, Arizona.

Union Pacific has and continues to invest millions of dollars into physical security measures to help protect its customers’ cargo and facilities, as well as its employees. This includes cut-resistant fencing topped with razor wire, block walls, camera systems and drones. We continue to research new technologies and assess our need for additional security measures in locations of high crime or trespasser activity.

In addition to technology and security, Union Pacific stepped up its outreach to local groups -- in part through bilingual flyers – to help migrants understand the dangers of walking on or near the tracks or entering rail yards. Flyers were posted in Eagle Pass, Texas, and in shelters in Mexico.

The flyers make it clear, “We value your life and take your security seriously. Think about it carefully and protect your life.”

Trespassing, burglaries and illegal contraband not only affect Union Pacific, but also our customers and consumers who rely on the timely shipment of these goods. Disruptions and delays due to these crimes can have significant business impacts, such as missed deadlines, lost contracts or production delays.

By working together using the "See Something, Say Something" motto we can prevent the continued rise of these crimes, save lives, protect our employees, and help ensure the safe and timely delivery of goods for everyone.

Call the Union Pacific Railroad Response Management Communications Center (RMCC) at 888-877-7276 if any suspicious activity is observed on or near Union Pacific property, or report various other issues and concerns via our online notification tool at

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