This is Marion Transit Center, the center of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority's (HART) downtown bus service, and it was designed to be a pleasant and inviting place for our customers to spend some time as they wait for their next bus. But Marion Transit Center, as with other transit facilities in our area, has also proven popular with people who are not simply passing through.
Susceptibility of Transit
Public transportation is meant to serve everyone. That we exist in an open environment means our facilities must be open and accessible most any time of day or night. Sometimes, the constant availability of our common areas invites people who are looking for a place to "hang out." This is enhanced by our close proximity to the Salvation Army and Metropolitan Ministries, which provide various services to the homeless and unemployed.
The challenge is in finding a respectful way of encouraging people to keep moving through our facilities, while maintaining a safe environment for everyone who uses them.
Policies keep loitering to a minimum
At HART, we work to control loitering through things like communication, a strong security presence and partnerships with our local law enforcement agencies. Here are some specific policies and procedures HART has adopted to help keep loitering to a minimum:
- At high profile locations such as Marion Transit Center, contract security guard services are utilized to provide additional security measures.
- HART places security brochures and interior advertisement signs in all buses and streetcars requesting customers' assistance in keeping our system safe.
- HART has an excellent working relationship with local law enforcement agencies that assist with this problem. When called for assistance, local law enforcement officers respond and work closely with HART field supervisors.
- "No Trespassing/Loitering" signs are posted in all transit centers, bus shelters and problem area bus stops. These signs, which reference Florida State Statute, provide for local law enforcement to issue trespass warnings to violators without the need for a HART representative to be present.
- Through reports received from operators and customers, problem areas within the system are identified. These locations are communicated to field supervisors who will increase monitoring of these areas during their daily system tours. Should the field supervisor observe an individual who is loitering, the supervisor will respectfully and professionally speak to the individual to request that they depart; should they not comply, the field supervisor calls law enforcement to assist.
- HART has a Trespass Warning Procedure, which is carried out through cooperation with local law enforcement. This procedure provides a tracking database of all offenders. Photos and trespass warning forms are posted at operator/supervisor reporting facilities to alert HART personnel of offenders.
- In the majority of situations, trespass warnings are issued for all HART facilities/property, to include all bus stops.
Individuals who violate the trespass warning can then be arrested for "Trespass After Warning."
By adopting these measures and communicating them with our customers, our employees and the people who could cause an unsafe environment, HART is taking a proactive role in maintaining security for all of the citizens who use our facilities.