Saturday, December 04, 2004


And now, when you thought things couldn't get any worse for SEPTA's Transit Police Department, they get worse...

Last year, six African-American SEPTA cops - including the son of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson - filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in federal court. Two weeks ago, a judge ruled that the case can proceed, according to WCAU-TV (NBC 10).

"Finally we have a chance to bring them to court and let the case be heard," said SEPTA Officer Marcus Blake. WCAU-TV
Blake gave a more detailed account to NBC 10 on November 23, the feed of which is still available at the NBC 10 web site. Among other things, Blake accused SEPTA Police higher-ups of not providing adequte back-up on assignments considered to be high-risk. Blake, it should be pointed out, identified himself as an undercover officer, and his face was obscured during the on-air interview.

SEPTA offically had no comment on the suit, as is SOP at 1234 Market. However...

NBC 10 ran a separate yet unrelated story on an increase in pickpocketing on SEPTA, including an incident last month in which a 68-year-old Philadelphia woman was robbed on a SEPTA bus:

Louise Richardson, 68, said she was a victim last month.

Shortly after paying her cell phone bill in cash, Richardson said she boarded a crowded SEPTA bus at 11th and Market.

"I felt someone hit me on my side, and being crowded you pay that no attention," she said. "And someone hit me again, and still paid it no attention because the lady next to me had a baby."

But Richardson said that once she got off the bus, she realized what happened.

"When I went to reach in my pocket where the money was in a bank envelope, there was no envelope," she said.

Richardson said about $2,000 was missing.

Richardson filed two police reports, one with Philadephia and the other with SEPTA. She identified the thief as the woman with the baby.

"If that woman and that baby were working that bus, she's going to get more than me. She's going to get a lot more seniors," Richardson said.
Sadly, it is that time of the year when theives are hard at work trying to steal from honest hard-working people, and to be fair, its not just limited to SEPTA.

Go to any mall, and I guarantee you, local police departments (or in the case of Granite Run Mall, the State Police) are spending more time at malls than they are on the road. Philadelphia DA Lynne Abraham recently held a press conference on this issue and other fraud related issues to warn seniors and all citizens about an increase in theft. And, in a heart-wrenching story, a thief in Montgomeryville allegedly burglarized several homes, stealing Christmas presents, according to KYW's Suburban Bureau (read: MontCo Courthouse) chief Jay Lloyd (we refer to Mr. Lloyd's title as such because it seems every other report he files is from Norristown Courthouse).

Now, back to our story...
SEPTA police sources said nearly a dozen riders were ripped off. But SEPTA officials would only confirm that pick pocketing increases this time of year, and they have stepped up patrols.

"We have a pickpocket patrol at the SEPTA Police Department, and they're undercover police, and they make arrests," SEPTA spokesman Rich Maloney said.
NBC 10
Why do we tie the two stories together?

We recieved an email today from a SEPTA insider, who asked not to be identified for obvious fear of retailation.
"Funny thing is the day after the report aired on the news [November 24 - ed.], SEPTA Police Deputy Chief David Scott sent a memo down canceling plainclothes/undercover departmentwide claiming he wanted higher visibility for the holiday season.

Plainclothes/undercover assignments were actually stopped because the one officer in the report (Blake) identified himself as an undercover officer and he pissed the administration off big time and this was their way of getting back at him. Pickpocketing is more frequent throughout the SEPTA system during the holidays so it makes no sense to stop the undercover assignments."
So, once again, we appear to have caught the Minster of Mis-Information in a lie, eh? But wait, there's more trouble brewing at 1234 Market, according to our insider, including a follow-up to a recent comment noting the lack of SEPTA Police presence during certain hours, including the overnight and early AM peak:
"In other news, I read how you stated they barely have any SEPTA Police between 11pm-7am. This is true. If at full staff, the night shift has 10 officers working between 11pm-7am, so if anyone is off or out sick, which occurs quite often, you could be down to 7 or 8 guys covering the whole system. Several times i have heard of only 4 officers working when at peak vacation season in the summer, but the SEPTA Police Dept doesn't really care about late night riders.

Also, for the most part, all SEPTA Police adminstration care about are the school kids at dismissal time, so most officers shifts are adjusted to work 8am-4pm, 8:30am-4:30pm or 9am-5pm and middle shift works 1pm-9pm, 1:30pm-9:30pm or 2pm-10pm. All this does is have a large amount of officers working at dismissal time to stop all the kids from robbing everyone on trains. Funny thing is that this leaves practically no officers working during morning rush from 6am-9am, you're lucky if there are 15 officers out there systemwide between those hours due to the adjusted schedules because the department refuses to pay overtime. Also there are usually no officers out on the system after 9pm or 10pm because their shifts are adjusted to prevent overtime."
The sad part about this is that even assuming that in fact SEPTA Police are rotated around school dismissal times, that doesn't explain the violent brawl that took place at the Spring Garden subway station this past April involving students from a charter school and an disciplinary high school. That said, the above comments confirms much of what was reported to me by another SEPTA insider regarding how shifts are managed.

It also confirms that SEPTA financial crisis may also have an impact on the safety of its riders. One would think that SEPTA's AGM for Safety and Risk Mis-Management James Jordan would get his head out of his ass and realize that despite all of the talk about passengers being more vigilant and safety being a #1 priority, the majority of riders can sum SEPTA's concerns about safety in two words:


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