News & Reviews News Wire Police officer criticizes Amtrak for putting 13-year-old off train NEWSWIRE

Police officer criticizes Amtrak for putting 13-year-old off train NEWSWIRE

By | April 2, 2019

Passenger railroad says action reflected ticket policies and safety concerns

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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — A Battle Creek police officer is questioning Amtrak’s decision to remove a 13-year-old girl traveling alone from a train, but the passenger railroad says acted within its ticket policies and with safety in mind.

WOOD-TV reports the incident in question occurred March 26, when the 13-year-old boarded a train in Lapeer, Mich., for a trip to visit her uncle in Chicago. The girl’s mother bought her ticket online, and she boarded without incident.

But Amtrak policies for unaccompanied minors ages 13 to 15 require passengers to board at a staffed station, to talk to staff prior to boarding, and to obtain an identifying wristband for the trip. Lapeer is unstaffed.

When the train’s conductor became aware of the girl’s age, she was put off the train at the next staffed station, in Battle Creek, and turned over to the police. Police Cpt. Joe Wilder, called to the Amtrak station, took the teen to the police station where she waited until her mother could pick her up.

Wilder is unhappy how the incident was handled, saying Amtrak didn’t even call the girl’s parents.

“My biggest issue is that they drop this child off, they’re responsible,” he told the TV station. “… What is a police agency supposed to do? We don’t have jurisdiction on the train. They have their own police department that’s supposed to be dealing with this, so I’m not really sure why they use us for a dumping ground.”

In an email with the TV station, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari explained the reason for Amtrak’s procedures, which also require tickets for unaccompanied minors to be bought by phone, rather than online.

“When someone of that age is traveling alone and outside those procedures, there is no way for our train conductors to know if they are traveling with the permission of their parent or guardian, if they are a runaway or if they are being trafficked,” Magliari wrote. “The safest decision was to transfer the child to a police agency, which is what occurred in this case.”

25 thoughts on “Police officer criticizes Amtrak for putting 13-year-old off train NEWSWIRE

  1. Back before Amtrak, as a 12-year old, I rode the train from Cleveland to Los Angeles and back (20th century limited and the Santa Fe’s Super Chief, had a name tag with my name, destination, my parent’s contact info pinned to my shirt, attendants on both trains made sure I didn’t get
    off until I reached Los Angeles, railroads back then had an easy yet strick policies concerning children traveling alone.

  2. When I was 13 my parents put me on a train in Champaign IL, I had a 6 hour layover in Chicago (I went to the Art Institute) and then I took the Lake Shore to Cleveland to see my grandparents. No wristband, no nothing. Just a kid who knew where he was going.

  3. Once again, they’re overdosing on “stupid” pills at Amtrak HQ.
    It’s pretty well accepted in the investment community that airlines generally have inept and terrible management..
    So, Amtrak decides to follow that pattern.

  4. I’ve written my federal delegation and Amtrak multiple times over their ridiculous unaccompanied minors policy. I could give a lot of reasons why the age for unaccompanied minors should be much younger, not the least of which is that the train offers safe transportation for those too young to drive, or are inexperienced drivers. Amtrak should be catering to this group, not chasing them away. My brothers and I traveled alone by intercity bus and Amtrak multiple times growing up. Far safer than driving. And a great way to practice independence in a safe setting.

    I did some research several years back, and could not find hard and fast minimum ages for independent travel on transit and commuter trains and buses around most of our major cities in the country. Arguably, those settings are much more risky than Amtrak.

    Also, Amtrak’s policy discriminates against large parts of the country (and more today than ever before, given cuts to station agents)–virtually all of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, large swaths of the midwest–all don’t qualify for unaccompanied minor travel. Ridiculous. Silly. Might I add stupid and shortsighted…

    Given motor vehicle death rates climbing, we should be encouraging young people to be on the train and on the bus.

    By the way, I have yet to get a response from anyone in my delegation nor Amtrak, despite multiple e-mails sent…

  5. I was a member of a rifle club at 11. Drivers permit at 14. Cowed by lawyers? Pathetic. How old to ride the NY subway alone eh? How old to ride a horse? I am sad that a public conveyance has been beaten into submission by sanctimonious scolds.

  6. Amtrak has suffered many a lawsuit from the days when children were able to travel unaccompanied and the result is the current policy on unaccompanied children for 12-15 year olds. The conductor did the right thing, which is policy, and dropped her off at the staffed station. This child was not left stranded!

    The real story should be, what parent in his right mind, would put their 13 year old, by themselves, on a train! Amtrak deals with unaccompanied minors a lot and most parents totally appreciate how it works and feel that their kids are safe.

    I, too, traveled by myself from California to Ohio when I was 15 and have very fond memories of that trip, but did meet a couple of run-aways as well. In this very litigious world, this is no longer acceptable.

  7. “But Amtrak policies for unaccompanied minors ages 13 to 15 require passengers to board at a staffed station, to talk to staff prior to boarding, and to obtain an identifying wristband for the trip.” Well, did Amtrak spell this policy when purchasing a ticket? Nope, just went to the reservation website, ordered a ticket midday for coach for a 13 to 15 year old and nada. Now, I didn’t complete the purchase, so maybe this policy pops up when entering one’s purchasing information? So a young mom thinks a train trip is a neat way to see the uncle, maybe based on a positive experience in her past, and not aware of the Amtrak age restrictions. Next a call from a someplace police station saying they have her daughter in a holding cell and come get her. Passenger train riding without a wrist ID band, very against policy! Panic and there goes ever riding a train anywhere ever again. Plus all the millennials that reads this and give up on railroads. Way to go Amtrak!

  8. M. Singer’s solution is spot-on. All it would have taken is a bit of reasoned thinking and common sense on the part of the conductor to do exactly that, then see to it that the mother was informed of the mistake she made. I seriously doubt the conductor would have been disciplined.

  9. When I was 10 years old, I drove the Empire State Express from New York to Painesville, Ohio. My dad accompanied me on a New haven train from Darien, CT, to Grand Central Station in New York. My aunt and my cousins greeted me when I arrived. I had lunch in the diner. No questions were asked, but I remember the food as being expensive.

    A great trip. Alone, at 10 years of age.

  10. Took my first unaccompanied ride on the MoPac at age 6. Parents put me on at Texarkana and the conductor made sure we made a stop at Garland City, where my grandmother met me. Also, rode Greyhound by myself in that same era. Took my first train trip at about 6 weeks with my mother to visit my grandmother.
    When we went on a 20 mile train ride field trip in kindergarten, I even knew the conductor.
    Those were different times. Of course, that was pre-Amtrak!

  11. Amtrak: Board at the staffed stations and reserve by phone.
    Public: Ok.
    Amtrak: We’re closing all our staffed stations and call centers

  12. Charles, wow, I don’t blame you if you don’t remember whether you were 14 or 115. You must be pretty old and you know what happens to memory past 115 or 116.

  13. I am hardly ever on Amtrak’s side but in this case they did the right thing. They have a policy and the parent of the girl did not follow it. All you old guys who traveled years ago during different times don’t seem to realize that times have changed. Just a few minutes ago I read an article about the Portland, ME airport that is being sued. They have a policy that “emotional support” animals have to be in a carrier or on a short lease under the control of the owner. There was one woman who apparently thought that she was above complying with the policy and took her emotional support pit bull to the airport on a long leash. The dog got loose from the owner and attacked a 5 year old girl and injured her seriously. Now the airport, airline and owner of the dog are being sued for $1.1 million because the airport did not comply with their own policy, the airline let the dog into the gate area and the owner did not control her dog. This could have easily have happened to Amtrak if something had happened to the girl. Amtrak would have been sued and the conductor and assistant conductor would have been sued and lost their jobs, The way they handled it was correct. They put the girl off the train at a staffed station and she was handed off to the police for protection until she could be picked up. The mother was probably inconvenienced but that is her fault for not reading the policy. What you did years ago doesn’t matter any more. The world has become a dangerous place and the most vulnerable people in it, the children, need to be protected as best as possible from these dangers. Amtrak, in this case, did that.

  14. I regularly went to Baltimore from CT at the age of 11. Every year. This new age of “correct” is only a cover for institutional CYA. At 14-15 I traveled everywhere I could by train. The Colonial, Royal Blue where my highway and classroom.
    Enough! Any word on how this young ladty was treated when she was removed? Flashing lights? Armed social workers?
    Enough is enough

  15. When I was 14 or 115 rode New Haven Railroad NYC to Boston and thought nothing of it, why would it even be an issue?

  16. Yes, I can also reference stories how I traveled at 12 for a weekend between Chicago-Minneapolis (Q up; CNW back); and several other trips under 16 between CHI-MSP. But that was between 1961-1964; a totally different time of a bygone era.

    However, despite Amtrak’s concerns for runaways and sex slaves, what the conductor did to that girl epitomizes how Forrest Gump surmised the world through his mama: “stupid is as stupid does.”

    Instead of actually and willfully jeopardizing this girl’s life and safety by dumping her off at the closest depot en route to CHI, why did the conductor simply request her to sit in the cafe, buy her a pop, and have the LSA watch her until CHI. Knowing how the conductor crew metastasizes with their gear in the cafe, that should not have been difficult.. At Union Station, the conductor would have personally escorted her to the waiting relative, and advised them of the rules.

    Frankly, I hope the girl’s family secures representation by the same counsel handling the case for that Covington, KY high school lad. Although Amtrak continues to evidence how it cannot get its act together in the 21st century, acting stupid and putting a child at risk is inexcusable. In America, we do not put our children at risk so needlessly!

  17. If the child was being trafficked, they would be with their handler, not alone. Traffickers wont let them be alone at any time, they can escape and call for hpl DUH!! That Amtrak spokesperson should do research on trafficking of children and know the subject before throwing it as an excuse for kicking a child off the train, All he had to say was that Mom did not follow policy. Facts Man only Facts.

  18. When I was 15 a friend and I were given a 30 day Railpasses on Amtrak(we were both confirmed railfans). The next month we travelled from Emeryville to Los Angeles to Chicago to Portland back to Emeryville again to Chicago then to New York City. Then spent the next couple of weeks going to Boston and back, to DC and back to upstate New York(on the D&H I forget where we turned back).
    I’m only going to mention the side trips to South Bend, and to Montauk that summer. A few other.
    Basically we had a blast. The food on the train was tasty(trout on the Empire Builder).
    Amtrak where is America’s railroad going? It’s been a long time since 1976.

  19. Seems like Amtrak could have handled it better. Since we are telling stories about traveling on trains as children, my grandfather who passed away last year at an age of 99 told me that as a child growing up in Camden NJ his first job was at the age of about 6 years old and he would get on the train going to Atlantic City and sell candy bars to the passengers for 5 cents each. He was not accompanied by an adult.

  20. A few years ago as I was preparing to board a flight from Minneapolis to Bozeman, the mother of a 12 or so year old girl asked me if I might help her daughter through the final boarding process, and look after her on the flight, and that her aunt and uncle were awaiting her at the other end. I arranged with the flight attendant to have her seated next to me, and I was pleased and proud to walk her off of the flight into the arms of her waiting relatives. P.S. I’m male, 60-ish at the time. My, how times have changed!

  21. You can never too to careful. We all know how those wily trrrrsss disguise themselves as children to maximize the collateral-damage. Next time, they need throw any unattended 13 year olds off the train ASAP, even if the train is still moving. What if she had had a bomb?

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