Back-Seat Driver

Sacramento Regional Transit’s dog is a bomb sniffer

A Sacramento Regional Transit light-rail rider called Thursday to complain there was a drug-sniffing police dog on the train that morning. At least that was his impression after briefly speaking to the officer with the dog. The rider, Edward Jefferson, who described himself as an older man, said he was concerned that RT officials might be using the dog to seek out and arrest young men on trains who are not causing any problems.

RT officials say that’s not the case. Waverly, a honey-colored Labrador retriever, is trained to detect explosive ordnance, they said.

“We do not, and never have had, any dogs trained to search for drugs,” RT official Mark Lonergan said. “We’re not a drug enforcement team. What we are looking for is people behaving (illegally) and being disrespectful to others.” That said, he added, “We don’t publicize the purpose or use of the dog and are fine with people being paranoid over riding with something that they know they shouldn’t have with them anyway.”

Officials say the dog’s presence makes the statement that RT is taking train policing seriously. Officer Clayton Buchanan, Waverly’s partner, said the dog is often an icebreaker, as well. People come up to pet it and start talking. “I’m more approachable, it seems, with the dog. It’s a friendly dog that looks more like a pet.”

Safety has long been a concern among light-rail riders, especially at night. A peer review panel recently suggested ways RT could improve security. The agency will hold open houses next week in Rancho Cordova and south Sacramento to share those ideas and solicit community opinions on how to create a more comfortable environment.

The Rancho Cordova meeting is Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Mills Building at the Mather Field/Mills light-rail station. The south Sacramento meeting is Thursday at 5:30 p.m., at the Pannell Meadowview Center. A third meeting is Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria downtown.

Halloween safety

Halloween trick-or-treaters will be out tonight. Here’s some safety advice, with help from AAA:

▪ Drivers: Go 5 mph slower than the speed limit in residential areas. Turn headlights on before sunset. Go slower when parked cars block view of the sidewalk. Expect kids with costume masks to be unable to see cars coming. Take care when pulling into or out of a driveway.

▪ Parents: Carry flashlights. If your older kids are going out alone, talk about safety rules, the route they’ll take, and the time they’ll come home.

▪ Kids: Wear retro-reflective tape on costumes and treat buckets. Avoid masks that obstruct vision. Watch out for costumes that are trip hazards. Carry a flashlight. Look – and listen – for traffic at intersections. Never cross streets between parked cars. Stay in a group.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.