Philadelphia City Council holds hearings on SEPTA safety, amid series of violent incidents

Surveillance video obtained by FOX 29 shows passengers on a SEPTA bus ducking for cover as a gunman opens fire, while it drove through the streets of Chester.

Several recent incidents of violence like that is why Philadelphia City Council has started hearings to evaluate SEPTA safety. 

Councilmember David Oh called for the hearings back in October to address the ongoing issues. 

At the time, Oh had cited a number of incidents, including an alleged rape that occurred on SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Line. Since then, authorities have investigated and made an arrest in an unrelated series of sexual assaults they say occurred on SEPTA property, including trains.

Oh also referenced a February shooting outside of the Olney Transportation Center that wounded 8 individuals. He says that particular shooting was one of nearly two dozen that have occurred in ‘close proximity’ to that transportation center. 

Since Oh called for the hearings more incidents of violence have captured attention, including an attack on a group of Asian teens that went viral on social media. 

Earlier this month, charges were filed against four teenage girls following the racially motivated attack on the Broad Street Line. All four teens face numerous charges, including ethnic intimidation, criminal conspiracy, and simple assault. 

Oh spoke to FOX 29 following that incident, calling the attack "disgusting" and "upsetting."

"We need uniformed police officers there to let people know who to go to if something happens and that they are safe," Councilmember Oh said. "There are too many people telling me that they don't want their children riding SEPTA, too many adults saying they no longer take public transportation, and there has to be a level of action.

"These incidents represent a clarion call for all of us to be vigilant of public safety and develop strategies to respond to acts of violence," stated SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards.


Members of City Council’s Transportation and Public Safety committees pressed SEPTA leadership on the spike in violence.

The Authorities’ Chief of Police says his agency is budgeted for 260 transit police, but claims it’s so hard to hire officers. It has only 213 walking the beat. And, he argues, SEPTA stations are attracting the vulnerable.

"The system has become a magnet for persons suffering from mental illness. These members of the more vulnerable community are seeking safety and shelter," Thomas Nestel, SEPTA’s Chief of Police remarked.

Despite recent arrests of those accused of violence, SEPTA has been sharply criticized for failing to quickly inform the public of safety concerns on its lines and council members say riders tell them they don’t see police on board.

SEPTA argues it has 28,000 cameras along its lines and it’s working to quickly get pictures of suspects to the cell phones of its workers.

SEPTA’s issues have expanded beyond their riders, as multiple contracted security guards have been accused of assaulting riders

FOX 29’s Steve Keeley reports that back on Nov. 11, SEPTA was investigating yet another incident in which an Allied Universal security guard was accused of assaulting a rider.

Surveillance video shows the guard in handcuffs, speaking to SEPTA Transit officers following the alleged incident. 

Keeley reports the guard was captured on camera taking off his uniform before assaulting a passenger at SEPTA’s Somerset Station. The rider was hospitalized with injuries to his head and face. 

According to sources, the guard was sent home the night of the alleged incident and has not been charged. A SEPTA spokesperson says the incident is still under investigation. 


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