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49 accessed--newer technology will create a need for ever- tems that maintained its own police department. It is also advanced systems. the only transit agency whose police officers are responsible for enforcement of laws and regulations pertaining to the Although it is a pioneer in the use of analytics, Metro highway system's high occupancy vehicle lanes. All traf- Transit experiences have shown that there is a constant need fic control and enforcement efforts are monitored at the to review an existing network. The need to retrofit is more METRO command center located at police headquarters in often associated with far older transit agencies, but Metro downtown Houston and at the regional transportation and Transit's experiences with the need to constantly upgrade emergency management center known as TransStar. its surveillance capabilities reinforces that the need to stay current is as important an issue for new systems as for far The police department originated as a small group of older rail lines. security guards; soon officers were commissioned as Texas peace officers with full police powers. The department, under the leadership of Chief Thomas C. Lambert, whose CASE STUDY 3: METROPOLITAN TRANSIT AUTHORITY formal title is Vice President and Chief of Police, contains OF HARRIS COUNTY, HOUSTON, TEXAS 185 police officers and 88 non-sworn civilian employees, about one-quarter of whom are system safety profession- Description of the Transit System als. The department has been accredited by the Commis- sion on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies since The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County in 2001, and it is one of only five transit police departments Houston, Texas, known as METRO, began operations on with this accreditation. It was also recently rated in the top January 1, 1979, as a regional transit authority to provide 5% of mass transit agencies in an assessment conducted bus service to metropolitan Houston and surrounding areas. by TSA. The majority of the department's employees are In November 2003, voters approved Metro Solutions, a plan located at the Buffalo Bayou facility in Houston's Cen- for multimodal transportation improvements that included tral Business District. Police communications and dis- development of 30 miles of light rail transit. At present, patch personnel work at TranStar, located near the Katy METRORail's Red Line is a 7.5-mile light rail system that Frwy/610 interchange. runs between the University of Houston-Downtown to south of Reliant Park along three major streets. Eighteen LRVs METRO police officers work within the 1,285 square- travel at grade, sharing streets with other vehicles. Powered mile METRO service area. They are responsible for METRO by an overhead catenary system, the LRVs provide service to facilities, and vehicles and equipment. They respond to 16 stations, most located near major city facilities, including calls for police service and investigate crimes that involve the museum district, the Houston Zoo, and the Texas Medi- METRO or occur on METRO's facilities, which include, in cal Center. addition to the light rail line and LRVs, 26 parking lots, 20 transit centers, the 1900 Main administrative headquarters, Trains operate from 4:30 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. Monday the Rail Operations Center near Reliant Stadium, nine bus through Thursday; 4:30 a.m. to 2:15 a.m. Friday; 5:30 a.m. operating facilities located throughout the service area, the to 2:15 a.m. Saturday, and 5:30 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. Sunday. more than 13,000 bus stops and shelters, and all buses. Teams METRORail also serves the Bush Intercontinental Airport of officers are assigned full time to ride buses and LRVs in by means of a bus every 30 minutes. In addition to the rail and uniform and in plainclothes to enhance passenger safety by local bus service, METRO also has a commuter bus system observing and arresting persons who commit crimes such as that provides high-passenger capacity service to suburban operator assaults, robberies, thefts, or narcotics violations on patrons by bringing them into downtown Houston through the transit system. one of the five METRO high-occupancy vehicle lanes. Watch Command Officers at TranStar monitor the sur- METRORail parking is provided at the southern-most veillance cameras installed at park-and-ride lots and tran- end of the light rail line. It is managed through a public-pri- sit centers. Bus cameras are not monitored in real time. vate partnership; METRO supplies the infrastructure, which For those cameras that are monitored in real time, when includes video monitoring, and the private firm manages the suspected criminal activity is observed the officers dis- fee collection. Parking for the commuter service is available patch roving officers to the scenes of the incidents. The at a total of 27 parking facilities (known locally as park-and- video that is collected from aboard camera-equipped buses rides) located at various points along the line. is reviewed after an offense to aid in prosecution. Another METRO police division designed to keep traffic moving is Security Organization and Personnel the Motorist Assistance Program. Civilian employees drive marked pick-up trucks with extra gas, jumper cables, and The METRO Police Department was formed in 1982; at that other equipment to help motorists using the high occupancy time, METRO was one of only a handful of bus-only sys- vehicle lanes along the expressways.
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50 Other police operations include K-9 teams trained in narcotic METRO is also exploring other ways to expand its inves- or explosives detection, a first-responder Special Operations tigative capabilities through better use of video technology. Response Team, motorcycle officers, and explosives ordinance For instance, the police are working closely with risk man- disposal technicians, as well as several officers assigned full agement personnel to enhance protection of park-and-ride time to the Houston Crime Stoppers office, the Houston Police lots. In addition to providing greater protection to patrons, Department's Auto Theft Division, and the Houston FBI Joint transit administrators believe that this will help the agency Terrorism Task Force. Information not publicly available was reduce monetary claims based on injury or loss or damage provided for the case study by Sgt. Felix Vara. to private vehicles. One expansion under review is possible because the software used to support the images provided by Existing Surveillance Technology the cameras in park-and-ride lots is also capable of license plate recognition. With this application, METRO police offi- METRO's use of video surveillance developed in piecemeal cers would be able to identify the owner of a vehicle or to fashion. First introduced at a number of employee facilities determine if the vehicle had been used in criminal activity in 1982, it was extended to LRVs in 2004, park-and-ride lots elsewhere, prompting a higher level of vigilance. in 2007, and buses in 2008. This pattern differs from many other multimodal systems, where surveillance technology In addition, METRO is considering expanding its use has been introduced on buses and only later expanded to of video cameras at bus transit points, and partnering with railcars. The existing network relies on almost 650 cameras, the City of Houston on a homeland security video initia- almost 400 of which cover parking facilities, 130 monitor tive that would add cameras at additional points along the employee facilities, and 34 are installed on METRORail. transit system. This system would rely on wireless cameras, Park-and-ride video was supported by an FTA grant. The which would minimize the expense of wired connectivity majority of other cameras were funded from local sources, and would capitalize on METRO's existing fiber-optic cable although DHS funding contributed to cameras on buses. infrastructure. In addition to the savings this would repre- sent for the city, these newer-model cameras are portable and Onboard cameras covering both passenger and opera- could be moved to various transit system locations. Portabil- tor/cab areas are installed on all LRVs. In addition, fixed ity would assist criminal investigators because they would cameras located at rail stations are focused on the paid fare be able to analyze crime data and concentrate video surveil- zones. Not all cameras are monitored at all times; park-and- lance on areas where incidents are occurring, the so-called ride lots, headquarters, and employee facilities cameras are hot spots of transit criminal activity. METRO sees this as monitored only during hours of operation. These cameras particularly useful for focusing its surveillance efforts on have provided video of sufficient quality to aid in the pros- bus stops and shelters. Because these are generally located ecutions of numerous burglaries and of motor vehicle theft on city streets, preventing incidents from occurring benefits suspects. In addition to cameras at METRO facilities and on both the city and METRO. The mobile cameras may also be LRVs, about one-third of the bus fleet has onboard cameras. employed at LRV stops and, as the system expands into less The video obtained from onboard the buses has also assisted dense areas of the city, at locations that might be less likely in a number of prosecutions, most often of suspects accused to be regularly patrolled by city or METRO police officers. of having assaulted patrons or bus operators. METRO has also found these cameras particularly effective in monitoring Using Analytics to Prevent Traffic Accidents a number of safety and risk management-related problems. METRO is studying the use of an innovative analytics sys- Current and Future Upgrades tem to monitor nontransit vehicles making left turns into the LRVs' alignment. The new system has the ability to monitor METRO is currently considering a number of expansions vehicle movement on a 24-hour, 7-day basis and to report of its video surveillance system that include upgrading where these actions are occurring, minimizing manpower equipment but also using surveillance to enhance both its needs and providing information for directed enforcement. law enforcement and accident prevention efforts. In keep- ing with advances in camera design, METRO has decided The system is deceptively simple. A test video shows that all new purchases will be of pan-tilt-zoom cameras. The a number of cars making turns that require crossing over agency hopes to eventually phase out all fixed-position cam- the LRV tracks. Vehicles turning properly are displayed in eras except in locations where these older-design cameras are green (the "go" indicator of having the right-of-way) and more feasible. METRO is also exploring expanding its use of those turning improperly are displayed in red (the "stop" video technology in place of or in conjunction with existing indicator of being expected to yield to other traffic). Plans perimeter defense such as gates. This change is based on the include an enforcement effort that will include officers dis- agency's belief that video will provide less porous protection patched to issue summonses to offending drivers. METRO while also providing investigatory support, something that is also exploring the possibility of having summonses issued static perimeter protection mechanisms lack. automatically, similar to red-light and illegal-turn camera