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RTD begins pilot program in an attempt to deter illegal activity

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Posted at 1:10 PM, Mar 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-18 09:55:17-04

DENVER — The Regional Transportation District (RTD) launched a 90-day pilot program Sunday to crack down on crime before riders even set foot on the light rail.

Elevator doors at three RTD stations — Nine Mile, Colorado and Southmoor — will be reprogrammed to stay open until a floor is selected.

As a way to get to and from the train platform, many RTD riders start in elevators.

But regulars like Ken Simpson said it doesn’t always feel safe.

“It’s on the daily basis. People are always in here smoking whatever drug they smoke off a piece of tin foil,” Simpson said.

Long-time RTD bus operator Ron Short told a similar story. Short said elevators have become havens for people experiencing homelessness and illegal drug activity.

“Especially in the early morning hours, where I drove, the elevator was more or less held captive,” Short said.

Digging deeper, RTD stats show there have been more than 350 complaints of less-than-optimal conditions at the Nine Mile, Colorado and Southmoor stations in the first two months of the new year.

“Every month, RTD receives hundreds of calls for service and customer complaints related to unwanted and illegal activities taking place inside our elevators,” Dr. Joel Fitzgerald Sr., RTD's chief of police and emergency management, said. "Setting elevators to a default open status dissuades usage to anything other than what is intended.”

The 90-day pilot program hopes to change that.

Through mid-June, RTD will monitor service calls and customer reports of illegal activity in and around its elevators. And then the agency will compare that data with similar reports filed before the pilot program began.

A decline in service calls and reports of illegal activity, customer complaints about cleanliness, and vandalism and damage in the elevators, is how RTD said it would measure the pilot program's effectiveness.

The results from that comparison will determine if RTD will continue the strategy at those three locations, in addition to implementing it on other elevators across stations.

“If you're not going to bring a security officer in at this point, I guess you'll save money,” said Stephen Lockwood, an RTD rider.

The pilot program is fairly inexpensive, costing a total of $600.

Lockwood said he understands improving security is a process.

“You need to start somewhere,” he said.

But many are pushing for better police presence on public transit to make a real change when it comes to crime.

“I do also believe that bodies need to be out there as well. A physical presence as well to make a difference,” Short said.

Project Manager for RTD Pauline Haberman said it's not the only safety update across the transit system. It's part of RTD's "Crime Prevention through Environmental Design" initiative. The agency has upgraded lights, added TV monitors for security feeds and installed smoke detectors in public restrooms, RTD said in a Friday news release.

RTD begins pilot program this weekend in an attempt to deter illegal activity

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