Outreach workers team up with SEPTA for pilot program in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has teamed up with social workers to help better serve Philadelphia residents.

SEPTA police officer Gabriella Fenwick and Merakey outreach specialist Nicole Polit are part of a team that will take a different approach to policing in the city.

"We're on the ground, on the platforms, on the buses and we're outside," said Polit. "We're all over, literally all over the city."

"Police aren't the answer to mental health. They're not the answer to addiction. Getting people the appropriate treatment is," said SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel III.

The program also addresses the spike in certain crimes, like robberies and thefts reported by SEPTA police since the pandemic began.

"The pandemic is causing more poverty, more mental health issues and they're attracted to mass transit because it's a safe place for people who are vulnerable to be," Nestel.

Right now, a handful of teams are stationed at the Center City and Kensington SEPTA hubs.

"In Center City, the problems are centered around homelessness," said David Malloy, the mobile unit supervisor with Merakey. "When we're up in Kensington, the focus is on Narcan distribution."

So far, the team has made over 100 contacts in addressing the needs of those congregating at SEPTA stops.

The plan is to eventually add more teams to various SEPTA hubs around the city.
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