SEPTA's cameras oversee nuisance crime crackdown

April 25, 2013 2:17:24 PM PDT
It's a petty crime as old as the subway system itself.

They formally call it fare evasion. It's also known as jumping, or otherwise evading the turnstile to avoid paying.

Now, SEPTA's $50 million surveillance system is helping bust fare evaders by the dozens every day at triple the rate from last year.

That's because 1100 live cameras are operating in SEPTA stations and undercover cops are there to make the pinch the moment a suspect is spotted from the monitoring center downtown.

"It's been our experience that people who don't pay to get on the system are getting on the system to engage in other activity that's going to be a problem for our riders," said SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel. "So we are aggressively attacking the problem."

The fines range from $100 to $300. The surveillance system is helping stop quality-of-life crimes as well, from drunkeness to loitering and from harassment to disorderly conduct.

All of it is caught and monitored on cameras in the stations that feed back images live, 24/7.

"We have panhandling issues which are a nuisance and an aggravation to our riders," said Nestel. "We have been battling a cell phone theft problem that's occurred throughout the city."

Action News got this reaction from one daily SEPTA rider in West Philadelphia:

"That's cool. If they're going to stop some crime I guess. I mean, I don't have anything to do with it."