Light rail guards to be given authority to cite passengers for tobacco usage

Hiring guards to cite transit riders who don’t pay fare appears to pass in Phoenix

By Dustin Gardiner The Republic | Tue Mar 12, 2013

Efforts to clamp down on freeloaders who take advantage of Phoenix’s “honor system” for fare payments on the light-rail system appear to have gotten a boost Tuesday.

Early returns suggested voters approved a proposition that allows the city manager to hire private security guards to ticket passengers who don’t pay a fare or commit other violations on mass transit — currently, only police officers and their assistants have the authority to issue such civil citations.

Officials said the change would greatly aid their ability to patrol the light-rail system and ticket violators. Contract security guards also are far cheaper to hire than uniformed police officers.

Because the change requires an amendment to the city charter, it had to be approved by residents. Neighboring cities along the light rail, Mesa and Tempe, already give transit security officers the authority to give citations.

Under Proposition 300, security workers on light-rail trains in Phoenix will be able to cite passengers for civil violations, including those who don’t pay fares, those who use tobacco on the train or those who cross the tracks illegally.

Private guards currently work on the trains, but they can only warn riders and turn them over to police.

Phoenix Councilwoman Thelda Williams said there has long been a perception that Phoenix doesn’t ticket offending riders as readily as Tempe and Mesa. Figures from Metro light rail, the agency that runs the Valley’s rail system, show that Phoenix has had a higher fare-evasion rate.

“Everybody I know that rides the train says, ‘I never see anyone pay,’ ” Williams said after the council approved the ballot proposition last November. “I’ve heard this for years.”

But city officials said the plan to use private security workers isn’t just meant to capture fare revenue. By primarily using contract workers to check fares and patrol rail cars, sworn police officers and their assistants can focus on more serious crimes.

Read the article online here.

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