Securing Our Commutes: Strategies for Mass Transit Hijacking Prevention

Oct. 3, 2023
The importance of mass transit hijacking prevention and strategies to ensure the safety of commuters and transit systems is of paramount importance.

Mass transit systems are essential components of modern urban life, facilitating the daily movement of millions of people. However, the openness and accessibility of public transportation also make it vulnerable to security threats, including the potential for hijackings. The importance of mass transit hijacking prevention and strategies to ensure the safety of commuters and transit systems is of paramount importance.

Mass transit systems encompass buses, subways, trains, trams, ferries, and more, making them a tempting target for individuals with malicious intentions. Not just terrorists (the extreme end of the threat spectrum), but also the everyday criminal (the opposite end of the spectrum). Hijacking incidents can pose significant risks to the safety of passengers, transit employees, and the broader community. To address this threat effectively, proactive prevention measures are essential. These measures include the following standards:

  1. Enhanced surveillance- Installation of high-quality surveillance cameras in and around transit vehicles and stations can serve as a deterrent and provide crucial evidence in case of an incident.
  2. Security personnel- Deploying visible and well-trained security personnel on transit vehicles and at stations can deter potential hijackers and respond swiftly to threats.
  3. Emergency communication systems- Establishing reliable emergency communication systems onboard transit vehicles and at stations allows passengers and operators to report suspicious activity or emergencies promptly.
  4. Access control- Implementing access control measures, such as turnstiles or electronic fare gates, can help monitor passenger entry and exit, making it more challenging for unauthorized individuals to enter transit facilities.
  5. Vehicle security measures- Installing anti-hijacking technology on transit vehicles, such as engine kill switches or remote tracking systems, can prevent unauthorized access and aid in vehicle recovery.
  6. Public awareness campaigns- Raising public awareness about the importance of reporting suspicious activity and remaining vigilant can empower passengers to play an active role in preventing hijackings.
  7. Intelligence sharing- Collaboration between transit agencies, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies can help identify potential threats and respond effectively to emerging security concerns.

However, transit services must go above these base standards. Intentional and effective training is critical. This training is not the basic “operator” course addressing how to operate the system, nor the standard emergency operations drills, but is instead a deliberate and effective training program discussing how to properly prevent, mitigate, and respond to hijackings and other forms of violence on and around the transit system. A solid training program for personnel should include:

  1. Indicators of Violence
  2. Concealed Weapon Identification
  3. De-Escalation Techniques
  4. Hijacking Awareness and Response
  5. Active Shooter Awareness and Response

These highly specialized topics are not ones that can generally be taught effectively to employees by in-house company trainers. Specialized training often requires specialized instructors.

Preventing mass transit hijackings requires a comprehensive approach encompassing physical security measures and community engagement. The cornerstone of any safety program resides with the people – personnel training. Operators of mass transit systems must be trained by reliable staff with an understanding of transit violence and related issues. Additionally, by investing in surveillance technology and public awareness campaigns, transit authorities can significantly enhance the safety and security of commuters and the integrity of their systems. In an era where public safety is paramount, these efforts are essential to maintain the efficiency and trustworthiness of mass transit systems worldwide. 

About the Author

Bret E. Brooks

Bret E. Brooks is the COO and senior consultant with the international training and consulting firm Gray Ram Tactical, LLC. Since 2007, he has provided transit systems around the world with effective violence prevention training programs. Bret specializes in transit safety and security and has presented at numerous international and national transit conferences.