In Wilmington, Del., and Snohomish County, Wash., transit agencies have partnered with local police to provide better safety for passengers and employees. Both unions took effect in early spring and have garnered nothing but positive comments from the communities.
“It was well received in the public and in the media,” said Drew McCaskey, marketing manager for Delaware’s DART First State.
There, a joint initiative was created to specifically address nuisance crimes, which include loitering, public drunkenness, lewdness and panhandling. Wilmington Police Detective Dan Selekman initiated the campaign out of a growing concern for such crimes in the downtown area. Through a grant from the Wilmington Public Library, of which Selekman is a committee member, additional downtown police patrols were activated, as was a new phone number for reporting the offenses.
“The new patrol covers the downtown area where about 12 DART shelters are located,” McCaskey said. “The police also came in and talked with our drivers and dispatchers to better educate them.”
Dennis Mochon, marketing manager for Community Transit in Snohomish County, Wash., also saw positive feedback to his agency’s program. “We’ve received a lot of customer compliments, especially from our drivers because they’re on the front line,” he said.
An incident that worried some Community Transit bus operators involved children throwing stones from roadway overpasses. Since the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office deployed uniformed officers to buses and facilities, those types of behaviors have all but ceased.
Partnerships generate support from communities, but in-house police forces can provide some of the same benefits.
Metro Transit Police Captain Jeff Delinski of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority took part in a weeklong police academy geared toward employees. Called the Metro Transit Police Citizen’s Academy, the program presented employees with a different aspect of the police force each day. Held during lunch, the voluntary program was flexible enough for employees to come and go according to their schedules.
“Chief of Police Polly Hanson came up with the concept,” Delinski said. “It was the idea of doing something interactive and informative with the people we work with. We’re always doing things concerning safety with the community, but this was something for those we work closest with.”
Presentations ranged from firearms demonstrations to pickpocket awareness. The topic that received the most feedback was the defensive tactics session.
“Many of the female participants had serious concerns about being attacked or robbed,” said Delinski. “They were very interested in learning quick techniques to get out of dangerous situations.”