Police presence may see upswing near rails

With an average of about one death per month since 2006 on its tracks, Caltrain is addressing its primary concern of pedestrian safety by adding three San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

Caltrain will add three full-time deputies April 1, the same day its contract with Amtrak police ends. Since 1992, any incident on the tracks has been handled by Amtrak police. The board of directors for Caltrain is expected to approve the move today.

“In order to change the culture that has developed over time of people trying to run the gates and pedestrians trying to cross the tracks, we need appropriate enforcement,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill, a member of the Caltrain board of directors.

The transit agency, which has 33 stations from San Francisco to Gilroy on a span of tracks stretching for 77 miles, has implemented a number of security programs and added millions of dollars of extra fencing in recent years to help stem pedestrian fatalities on the tracks. According to Caltrain, 27 people have been struck and killed on the tracks since 2006.

With the addition of three full-time deputies, Caltrain will have 14 full-time deputies to watch over the tracks. Caltrain’s police officers, called the Transit Police, are the lead investigators and respond to any incident in which someone dies or is injured after being hit by a train or bus. Caltrain has contracted with the county Sheriff’s Office mainly because most of the stations are located within San Mateo County, officials said.

Having more full-time deputies would improve Caltrain safety, said Jonah Weinberg, spokesman for Caltrain and SamTrans, especially as ridership has jumped 21 percent since 2005. More than 36,000 riders are expected this year.

Weinberg said the Transit Police most commonly deal with passenger enforcement. Sometimes passengers refuse to pay their fares once on the train and do not cooperate with conductors. Other times, rowdy riders need to be kicked off the train. Drinking is legal on Caltrain as long as passengers are orderly.

“It’d be nice to have more enforcement on the trains,” said Alicia Watters, who hopped on a northbound train at the Millbrae station Wednesday to get to her home in San Francisco. “Sometimes there are some people who get a little out of control, especially later at night and [when people are drinking].”

The deputies will likely be contracted through mid-2011 at about $200,000 apiece annually. The new deputies will also help patrol SamTrans buses, which are run by the San Mateo County Transit District.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

Common reports by transit police

» Reports of trespassers cutting across tracks

» Passengers who refuse to pay for ticket

» Passengers who are too rowdy

» Injuries that occur onboard trains and buses

» Cars that hit buses

» Annual rail crossing citations program in May

» Responding to incidents at major transit centers

Deaths on the tracks

» 10: People hit and killed by Caltrains in 2007/08

» 17: People hit and killed by Caltrains in 2006

*Source: San Mateo County Transportation Authority

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes to The City's streets including Slow Streets closures to increase open space access and the Shared Spaces program, which allows businesses to use public right-of-ways for dining, retail and services. (Examiner illustration)
COVID is reshaping the streets of San Francisco

Walk down Page Street, which is closed to thru-traffic, and you might… Continue reading

Superintendent Vincent Matthews said some students and families who want to return will not be able to do so at this time. “We truly wish we could reopen schools for everyone,” he said. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD sets April reopening date after reaching tentative agreement with teachers union

San Francisco Unified School District has set April 12 as its reopening… Continue reading

José Victor Luna and Maria Anabella Ochoa, who cite health reasons for continuing distance learning, say they have been enjoying walking in Golden Gate Park with their daughters Jazmin, a first grader, and Jessica, a third grader. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Some SFUSD families prefer distance learning

Health issues, classroom uncertainties among reasons for staying home

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation intended to help California schools reopen. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Newsom signs $6.6 billion school reopening legislative package

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation Gov. Gavin Newsom and state… Continue reading

Most Read