Back-Seat Driver

Could BART train terror be replayed on Sacramento light rail?

Is Sacramento light rail safe?

Sacramento Councilman Larry Carr and light-rail passengers discuss the safety of the transit system.
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Sacramento Councilman Larry Carr and light-rail passengers discuss the safety of the transit system.

Riders on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train in Oakland were terrorized last week when several dozen teens jumped the fare gates and momentarily commandeered a train. They reportedly stole five cell phones, a purse, and a bag. Two riders were punched and kicked.

Nothing as dramatic as the BART incident has happened on Sacramento Regional Transit light rail. But something similar could happen here, RT’s security chief acknowledges. It might actually be easier for thieves to swarm a train here, since RT stations have no gates to keep nonpaying customers out. (A closed system was too expensive to build)

RT has recorded 24 thefts on trains this year, usually of electronic devices. Sacramento Police Capt. Norm Leong, RT’s security chief, says he believes recent security upgrades, including a big boost in on-train policing last year, have made a marauding incident less likely.

RT has cameras in each train car that record what happens, though they are not monitored in real time. Police typically download the contents after an incident as part of the crime investigation.

All light rail stations have cameras that are monitored in real time by RT and police employees at a joint operations center on Richards Boulevard. A few years ago, some RT cameras at stations were inactive due to budget problems.

Leong said officers or fare checkers now typically ride on most trains, most days. Some of those trains, however, have four cars. The officers or fare checkers assigned to a train have to switch from car to car during station stops.

RT’s advice to riders, in case of crime issues: Call RT at 916-556-0275 when you see any suspicious activity. Also, there is a red alert button riders can push on each train car. Riders also can silently text RT police on the Alert SacRT smartphone app. To do that, you need to have already added the app to your phone. You can text or call RT anonymously.

A video that went viral on Facebook Wednesday, Oct. 26, shows Sacramento police and Regional Transit officers wrestling a man to the ground and tasing him after he walked away from them. A woman was also held down and arrested. A bystander filmed

Highway repairs

With the winter rainy season about over, crews have been gearing up for major work:

▪ Repairs continue on Highway 50 near Pollock Pines, where a part of the highway washed out during heavy winter storms. Traffic remains limited to one lane in each direction – but we hear it’s causing only a momentary slowdown. Myers and Sons is building a new 600-foot retaining wall, Caltrans says. Finish date is late summer.

▪ Caltrans was scheduled to be out this April 29-30 weekend fixing some serious potholes in the westbound direction on Highway 50 near Watt Avenue. Could be a smoother commute Monday. They may do finish work next weekend.

▪ Crews will be working all summer on Highway 160, the freeway spur between downtown and the Arden Way area, grinding the surface. That project will require a lot of night lane closures.

▪ Tahoe visitors be forewarned: Expect lane closures starting this week on Highway 28 near Sand Harbor, as well as work later this summer on Highway 89 at Tahoe City.