RTD adding 24/7 Transit Police to help improve safety

DENVER (KDVR) – The Regional Transportation District announced the Transit Police Department is moving to 24/7 staffing starting May 5.

That would include an overnight Transit police presence on bus, rail and paratransit services.

“The introduction of an overnight team has been a priority for RTDPD, and it was always contingent upon our hiring success,” Chief of Police Joel Fitzgerald Sr. said in a press release from RTD. “We needed enough staff to begin to provide the high-performance service our stakeholders expect. As we continue to grow, you’ll see us even more.”

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The goal, according to RTD, is to enhance the personal safety and security of employees and riders. They said that goes for both those using the systems during regular hours, as well as overnight.

The FOX31 Problem Solvers found that there were at least 178 passenger reports of assault or injury in 2021 and the first two months of 2022. A study released last October showed that after improvements were made, 75% of RTD riders were satisfied with the District’s service.

RTD increasing officer presence

RTD stated that it currently has 61 Colorado Peace Officers Standards and Training certified officers, with an additional 19 recruits currently in the police academy who are slated to graduate in May.

That number is a large jump from August 2022 when the agency only had 19 sworn-in officers.

“Being able to respond to more calls for service and process more of our own arrests makes us a force multiplier for other law enforcement agencies,” Fitzgerald stated in the press release.

According to RTD, there are currently 26 recruits who are projected to attend the academy in July. The goal is to get to a minimum of 119 officers by the end of the year.

“This means that RTD will always be a priority and our department is viewed as a better partner. All members of the RTDPD team will do everything in our power to ensure that customers and employees are safe on the RTD system,” Fitzgerald stated in the press release.

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Horn added that an overnight presence will enhance the safety of RTD’s employees who work late and overnight shifts.

“We will do everything possible to ensure our employees are safe in the work environment. We are one RTD,” he said.

RTD doing more than adding more officers

This year RTD adjusted its approach to handling large crowds attending downtown events by adding train cars and security personnel.

Chief Communications and Engagement Officer Stuart Summers explained to FOX31 that in addition to contracted security officers volunteers dressed in bright orange vests to assist passengers, RTD changed the way its security force is being deployed, dividing the 2,000 square-mile service area into five sectors with a commander for each.

A pilot program at high-traffic stations at Southmoor and Nine Mile is testing how drug use and other crimes can be reduced by reprogramming elevators so they stay open when not in use.

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Stations now have improved security, lighting and landscaping. RTD will also add six mental health workers and five homeless outreach coordinators by the end of the year.

How to report crimes with RTD

Since RTD operates in eight counties and 44 cities, covering different jurisdictions served by different police agencies, it is developing a better system of collecting information on the number of transit-related crimes.

RTD customers are asked to help by reporting unwanted or illegal behavior or any suspicious activity they may observe by calling the RTDPD at 303-299-2911 or texting 303-434-9100.

In emergencies, RTD is asking customers to call 911 and immediately alert an operator.

RTD stated customers are also encouraged to report unsafe or suspicious activity via the Transit Watch app, which is available in English and Spanish and iOS and Android versions for download.

“We know that problems can occur at any time, so this is another step toward meeting the goal of creating a welcoming transit environment 24/7, 365 days a year,” Deputy Chief Glyn Horn said.

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