Inquirer staff writer Paul Nussbaum reports:
To reduce violence in the subway, SEPTA and the Philadelphia School District should eliminate the new student TransPass program and return to subsidized tokens and paper transfers for students, city controller Alan Butkovitz said today.
Butkovitz, who released a performance audit of subway security, said the new passes allow truants “to roam the system from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.” He cited the March 26 death of Sean Patrick Conroy, 36, a Starbucks manager in Center City who died after an attack by five truant Simon Gratz High School students.
Butkovitz also called for the city to install security cameras and manned security kiosks in the concourses and pedestrian tunnels under City Hall. And he urged that SEPTA police turn over the responsibility for rousting homeless people from the concourses to civilian officials, to free up more police to deal with violent crime.
SEPTA general manager Joseph Casey said the transit agency “has seen no evidence of significant misuse” of student passes, “or any correalation of pass misuse with crime on the system.” In a written response to Butkovitz, he said crime statistics, which show a spike in crime after school dismissal times, have not changed much in recent years.
Casey said SEPTA is cooperating with the city to try to reduce homeless use of the subway concourses, but he said using non-police to deal with the problem “raises the possibility of more risk than benefit.”
A school district spokesman said he had not seen the audit and would have no immediate response.
The city’s deputy mayor of public safety, Everett A. Gillison, responded to the audit by agreeing to improve the security of emergency phones and to create a formal cooperation plan between city and SEPTA police.
But Gillison said many other of Butkovitz’s recommendations, such as cameras and kiosks, were too expensive for the city to tackle in its current financial straits.
Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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