Inside SEPTA’s challenges and changes with its newest Acting Police Chief Chuck Lawson

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Through the turnstiles and onto the platform, acting SEPTA Police Commissioner Chuck Lawson gave Action News an insight into the challenges facing the transit system.

“If you walk this way, you’ll see discarded needles,” Chief Lawson said.

On our short walk along the Market-Frankford Line, which Chief Lawson says is a hotspot for drug use, crime and homelessness, we found about half a dozen syringes.

SEPTA drivers we spoke to agree.

Chief Lawson asked a driver why he felt most unsafe. The driver replied, “I feel like the needles on the track – it’s always kind of alarming.”

Acting Police Chief of SEPTA Chuck Lawson speaks about the challenges facing the agency and the changes ahead in an interview with Action News on July 27, 2022.

“I see people smoking K2 on SEPTA, peeing on themselves on SEPTA, talking to themselves on SEPTA. There’s a lot of stuff that runs on SEPTA,” said William Bolton of South Philadelphia.

Just three weeks into his new role, Chief Lawson is deploying 25 additional officers to patrol the Market-Frankford Line to prioritize safety for his customers.

“My goal right now is to give them a better experience, increase police visibility, increase deterrence and improve enforcement,” Chief Lawson said.

We noticed more patrols on the platforms.

“These officers just go back and forth checking every station they get off at,” Chief Lawson said.

For SEPTA, they want strength in numbers, which they don’t already have.

Chief Lawson says they are now seeing some high-profile applicants after the system decided to offer officers a more competitive wage.

For now, they rely on the keen eyes and ears of their dedicated dispatchers. They monitor the system’s surveillance cameras.

The cameras have been instrumental in catching some of the city’s most dangerous criminals – like the man accused of raping a woman near a SEPTA platform this month, or police say the accused serial killer had it in the Targeted SEPTA drivers in June.

“When you commit a crime on SEPTA, you are in front of the camera. We have over 30,000 cameras throughout the system and there isn’t a place you can go within SEPTA that you won’t be on camera,” Chief Lawson said.

The transit company also plans to hire five additional dispatchers, who don’t have to be sworn officers because their job is to monitor the activity of the system’s cameras.

Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All rights reserved. Inside SEPTA’s challenges and changes with its newest Acting Police Chief Chuck Lawson

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