Transportation

Anti-terrorism agents took a look at Sacramento’s transit security. Their verdict?

Three years ago, Sacramento Regional Transit upgraded security on its light rail lines, placing transit officers on almost every train and installing hundreds more cameras that are monitored in real-time from a command center.

The innovations included what some at the agency called the “Voice of God” approach – a public address system that allows RT officials watching via camera at the control center to speak directly to people on loudspeaker at the station, warning them against loitering, littering, drinking and other scofflaw behavior.

One result: A 28 percent reduction in crime on the system two years ago, and another 8 percent last year, RT Police Chief Justin Risley said. Another: On Monday, the federal Transportation Security Administration awarded SacRT a Gold Standard award for security and emergency preparedness, given this year by the TSA to just seven transit agencies nationally.

Other recipients were North County Transit in San Diego, as well as bus and rail agencies in Denver, St. Louis, Reno, Pinellas County, Fla., and Washington, D.C. Ninety-two agencies were reviewed.

Federal agents reviewed the local transit system, checking stations and going over the agency’s training and security protocols. SacRT’s plan was “very strong,” Sacramento-area TSA chief Sid Hanna said.

SacRT General Manager Henry Li said the agency has focused on safety and security in recent years and now spends about 15 percent of its budget on those items. That includes a smartphone Alert SacRT app that allows riders to report incidents anonymously directly to employees at the agency’s security operations center.

Risley said putting transit officers on almost every train has made a notable difference. “There is increased interaction on trains. Transit agents are greeting passengers and checking fares.”

He and TSA officials said the federal reviewers provided suggestions for upgrades to the agency and have been conducting training, including anti-terrorism exercises. “In today’s age, it’s important to have that partnership,” Risley said.

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