The Tempe Transportation Department and the Tempe Police Department are providing added security and safety measures to public transportation in order to cut down on crime and other incidents that occur on buses and at bus stops throughout the city.
The Tempe City Council approved the pilot program last year. It gives Tempe Police with money from the Tempe transit tax to provide officers to ride the bus routes for added safety.
Transit manager Mike Nevarez said the program helps oversee issues that arise on public transportation.
“Tempe Police already respond to transit incidents, but with the pilot program, they are trying to provide additional oversight,” Nevarez said.
The program provides one officer to ride on a chosen bus line with a marked vehicle following behind. The idea is to stop criminal activity before it happens and to deter anyone from causing trouble or distracting the driver, he said.
Sgt. Michael Pooley of Tempe Police said the program started in July 2013.
“We have two uniformed officers go out during off-duty hours and ride different buses and the rest of the force isn’t affected, because we are using off-duty officers and the money is coming from the city,” he said. “We started the program to address incidents that happen and to be highly visible to address any crimes on buses and at bus stops.”
Reaction to the uniformed officers has been mostly positive, Pooley said.
“We’ve been getting positive comments from drivers and the public,” he said. “Many passengers are happy to see the officers riding with them.”
The program isn’t merely to arrest criminals, Pooley said.
“We are out there at different times and are in different areas not to just show we are here to take people to jail, but we are here to help people out,” he said.
The program seems to be working, and incidents on the buses have dropped in recent months, Pooley said.
From July 1 to Dec. 31, officers boarded 315 buses, conducted 548 bus stop checks, wrote five criminal reports and assisted in two medical calls, Pooley said.
Bus driver Latasha Colley, who drives an Orbit bus, said she welcomes the police to ride along and provide safety not just for passengers but for drivers also.
“I think it is part of the safety to just driving on the bus, and I think it’s a good thing at nighttime especially,” she said. “It is for our safety because some time you have people acting a fool or they’re drunk or are just having a bad day and some people are just crazy, so I think it is a good thing to have the officers riding.”
Numbers of arrests during the program were not available.
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