Take an inside look at SacRT’s ‘gold standard’ security and safety program

February 7, 2023 SacRT Blog

The Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) just won a federal Transportation Security Administration “Gold Standard” award for its emergency preparedness and overall security systems. It’s the second such award for SacRT in the last three years, a rare achievement among transit agencies. 

But it’s no surprise. SacRT has been on a mission to dramatically improve safety and security in every corner of its system. 

That multifaceted operation is anchored by its Security Operations Center on Richards Boulevard where SacRT crews monitor live video cameras at light rail stations, on light rail trains and on buses 24 hours, seven days a week. In total, SacRT has more than 1,000 security cameras in use system-wide. 

It’s a sophisticated technological system; however, SacRT’s passenger safety and system security in fact really starts with its employees: 32 transit ambassadors, 30 sworn police officers, 20 private security guards, and 10 monitors at the operations center hub.  

That team is supplemented by bus drivers and light rail operators trained on steps to take when faced with a safety issue. SacRT also employs a full-time social service practioner who often takes the lead working with issues involving the unhoused to better connect them with resources. 

Robert Kerr, the manager of the SacRT Security Operations Center said the message to riders is one of assurance. “They can know that somebody is here monitoring, behind the scenes,” he said, “working to assure their safety regardless of where they are, on a train, on a bus, or walking to a station.” 

Almost all incidents of bad behavior on the SacRT system are far more benign, thanks to SacRT’s focus on stopping problems before they start. That occurred last month when a transit ambassador came across a rider on a downtown train who did not have a ticket and who refused to leave the train.

The ambassador radioed lead security specialist Andrea Shaffer in the operations center. Shaffer brought up several video camera views on her computer screen to monitor the person and to keep SacRT police updated. Police met the train two stops later. When the man again refused to leave, they arrested him for resisting a peace officer and for violating probation. 

Transit ambassadors aboard trains have been a notable boon to SacRT in recent years. Applying a friendly but firm stance, they have helped SacRT cut fare evasion down to a trickle, and their presence on trains most hours of the day discourages other nuisance behavior. 

SacRT also makes frequent and effective use of public address announcements at train stations that allow personnel in the operations center to speak directly to people in the station. The loudspeakers are sometimes referred to as the “Voice of God.”  

If someone is misbehaving, “we tell them law enforcement is watching them; we may even describe the person we are speaking to,” operations center supervisor Kerr said. “They’ll be surprised. They’ll look up. We get about 75% or better compliance. The key is we tell them we will dispatch officers if they do not comply.” 

“The message we are sending to people who act up is that we are going to hold you accountable,” Kerr said. “We are watching you, and if you are doing something you shouldn't be doing, there are going to be consequences.” 

A few weeks ago, when someone called in a bomb threat not far from a light rail station in midtown, officials used that station’s loudspeakers to tell nearby shoppers and pedestrians to clear the area. That quick action reflects the kind of emergency preparedness at SacRT that the federal TSA recently lauded with its Gold Standard award. 

Riders as well can be a key part of SacRT’s security system, Police Services Director Vince Beatty said. SacRT asks passengers to download the free Alert SacRT app and use it to communicate directly with transit security if you witness a bad behavior on the system.  

“The Alert SacRT app is the best way to report a problem of any sort,” Beatty said. “The app can be used discreetly and anonymously.” 

Download the free app on an iPhone or Android device, visit https://www.sacrt.com/app to learn more.