PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- About 55,000 students from the School District of Philadelphia rely on SEPTA to get to and from school. But with SEPTA police staffing at about 75%, the transit authority's acting police chief has a laser-focused plan to keep kids safe.
"We are going to emphasize getting cops on trains and boarding with groups of students, and moving throughout the system with them. That's our priority and our focus this year," said Chuck Lawson, acting police chief.
Lawson says cops will also patrol areas where multiple schools merge, and monitor social media and various areas deemed hotspots. These areas include "Spring Garden Station, Market Frankford Line, 15th Street, Frankford terminal," he said.
With staffing issues and high turnover rates in law enforcement, this is not an easy task.
"It's a whirlwind of things colliding. With an increasing level of violence and an age group where we've never seen this level of violence occurring in," he said.
It's created an all-hands-on-deck situation.
"I am moving back some of our day work personnel to keep them on for longer periods of time and all of our administrative staff, our support groups, all of them are out in the field at school dismissal and we need every single one of them," Lawson said.
SEPTA also utilizes more than 30,000 cameras throughout its system. This school year, they will have more eyes on those cameras.
"Within the next month we are going live with a virtual patrol unit so we will have civilians operating cameras throughout the system, looking at places where there are no cops located, allowing police to branch out," Lawson said.
Lawson also said many people are afraid to report tips or information to police. He said on the SEPTA Transit Watch App, you can remain anonymous and police will be dispatched immediately.