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SEPTA - 10 Years After 9/11 - Safe, Secure and Focused

As the 10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001 approaches, the presence of uniformed SEPTA Transit Police Department officers on SEPTA trains and buses and in our stations will be more noticeable. Federal Air Marshal Service Viper teams will augment patrols. These enhanced police deployments won't be because of any known threat to mass transit in the region, but to assure our passengers we understand how important it is for them to feel safe. Over the past decade, SEPTA has focused efforts on a series of changes to enhance our ability to protect passengers. These changes have made us safer and have increased security.

"Post 9-11, SEPTA's Transit Police Department has improved communications with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners and implemented training to enable officers to respond to threats anywhere throughout our 2,200-square mile system," said SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey. "While we hope our officers never have to put their response capabilities to use they are ready to do so at a moment's notice."

Transit police are responsible for the security at over 100 stations on the Market-Frankford, Broad Street and Regional Rail Lines. Each officer receives behavior detection training to learn how to recognize indicators and signs that a person or persons may be a potential problem. The training is provided by experts approved by the Department of Homeland Security. Twenty to thirty percent of SEPTA's police force has also received training in explosives at the New Mexico Technology School in New Mexico.

Within the Transit Police Department there is a unit especially focused on this period of time, including the 9/11 anniversary. SEPTA's Special Operations Response Team (SORT) was originally formed to serve during the Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia in 2000. The unit is comprised of 15 officers, two sergeants and one lieutenant trained in anti-terrorism awareness through a program that includes threat recognition, response and prevention techniques. SORT concentrates law enforcement efforts on anti-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction detection and prevention. All SORT members receive extensive chemical, biological, radiological and explosive training.

Richard Evans, Chief of the Transit Police Department, has been with SEPTA for 20 years, 16 as chief. "We are as prepared as possible to prevent, respond and mitigate effects of a terrorist event," said Chief Evans. His officers utilize unannounced surges of police presence to deter misbehavior. "We can't be everyplace at every moment, but we try to make it look like we are."

Chief Evans, who manages the Department's $16.8 million budget, noted, "SEPTA has also been able to leverage funding provided by Homeland Security to initiate programs, provide training and purchase tools to support our ability to protect our passengers and employees." He believes, post 9/11, the Transit Police Department has a more sophisticated focus on terrorism and has acquired the tools and training needed to respond to threats.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act/Transit Security Grant Program, SEPTA received a grant in 2009 to pay for the hiring of the 12 officers, raising the total number in the transit police department from 256 to 268. The nearly $4.5 million in federal grants was also used to purchase new anti-terrorism equipment.

Other post 9/11 initiatives include:

Strengthened relationships with local, state and federal law enforcement partners.

Detective assigned to represent SEPTA on the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

Installation of state-of-the arts surveillance camera systems in stations and vehicles.

Enhanced training for the SEPTA Special Operations Response Team (SORT).

Addition of five Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-certified and four locally trained bomb dogs to the canine unit.

Installation of computerized dispatch system that can be linked with the Philadelphia Police and Temple Police Departments systems, if needed.

Produced pamphlets and posters to encourage riders to "see something, say something." Purchased the GIA Tracker-XRC, a state-of-the-art explosives and radionuclide detector that detects gamma rays.

Provided employee training in various aspects of terrorism awareness and behavior assessment.

Began the process of enhancing our cyber security.

The most notable post 9/11 change for the SEPTA Transit Police Department and all law enforcement is improved intelligence sharing. The SEPTA Transit Police Department communicates regularly with the Philadelphia Police Department, the FBI and the TSA and is a member agency of the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC).

The role of keeping SEPTA safe, however, is not law enforcement's alone. To continue to improve the security of the system, SEPTA encourages customers to be alert to their surroundings and to report usual or suspicious activity and any unattended packages by calling (215) 580-8111, the Transit Police Emergency telephone number. More security and safety tips can be found here.

Chief Evans, a 20-year veteran of the SEPTA Transit Police Department, believes his officers have the tools and training needed to respond to threats.

The Department's 268 sworn officers are responsible for the security of passengers and SEPTA property.

Transit officers patrol Regional Rail Stations....

....and the Market-Frankford Line and Broad Street Line subway stations

The Canine Unit is comprised of nine trained bomb dogs.