Loitering is not a very common occurrence in Orange County, but when it is reported on street corners or outside major transportation centers, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and Transit Police Services (TPS) address the issue quickly. The OC Sheriff's Department provides security and law enforcement for OCTA under contract.
Four Steps to tackling Loitering
The Orange County Transit Police tackles loitering through four basic steps: scanning, analyzing, responding and assessing.
- Scan — We rely on the strong partnership with our customers and community to be our eyes and ears, reporting suspicious activities to law enforcement who can visit the site to investigate.
- Analyze — Proper analysis of an incident consists of a transit deputy carefully examining his/her observations to identify possible causes and key factors.
- Response — TPS reports to city officials in which transportation center, commuter-rail station or bus stop is located to address loitering issues and enforce laws under proper municipal codes.
- Assess — A transit deputy will evaluate the incident through observations and various visits to the site to verify the problem has been alleviated.
Working with Transit Police Services
Transit Police Services works closely with OCTA's Planning and Development Department to enhance safety for OCTA customers. A plan is currently underway to upgrade seating benches through the addition of armrests. Making physical changes to bus stops and benches is a method adopted from Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Most implementations of CPTED occur solely within the "built environment" to dissuade offenders from loitering. These tactics have been proven to dissuade those who loiter in and around transportation centers.
Currently, OCTA coach operators access designated employee areas within transportation centers via access codes. Although access codes are exclusively for OCTA personnel, number combinations have been illegally used by local passersby. To prevent trespassing, TPS plans to implement card-swipe entry in place of access code keypads.
OCTA has the unique opportunity to collaborate with TPS to further develop and shape the future of transit in Orange County. Future projects include a "Go Local" program that encourages cities to plan transit connections from local Metrolink stations to major employment, residential and activity centers. As part of the Go Local program, a pedestrian undercrossing will be the newest addition to the Orange Metrolink station. During the planning and developing phases, TPS played an active role with the undercrossing layout and design to enhance OCTA customer safety. The undercrossing will include surveillance cameras, rolling security gates to prohibit people from entering after hours and a designated TPS parking area that will provide transit police a full line of vision through the tunnel.
Committed to safety
In 2005, we were recognized by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) as the nation's No. 1 transportation system because of our ability to deliver safer, faster and more efficient transportation solutions throughout Orange County. Our system includes a fast-growing bus service with nearly 70 million boardings per year, Metrolink commuter trains on three rail lines with more than 1.5 million passengers annually, the 91 Express Lanes toll road that provides faster commutes for residents in Orange County and the Inland Empire, significantly enhanced freeways and coordinated taxicab. It is through hard work and dedication of Transit Police Services that OCTA is able to uphold its commitment to customer safety.
At the north end of downtown Tampa, Fla., sits one of the city's most aesthetically pleasing structures. There is a courtyard filled with flowers, public art, shelters for shade from the hot Florida sun, vending machines, a spacious (and air-conditioned) lobby and lots of comfortable benches — all surrounded by a canopy of trees.
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.