Philadelphia councilmember calls for hearings over SEPTA safety concerns

In the wake of various criminal incidents involving SEPTA riders, employees, and contracted security officers, a Philadelphia council member is calling for hearings to address the ongoing issues. 

Councilmember David Oh, on Thursday, introduced a resolution calling for city council’s committees on transportation, public utilities, and public safety to hold joint hearings regarding safety in SEPTA facilities and aboard SEPTA vehicles. 

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In the resolution, Oh cited a number of recent incidents including an alleged rape that occurred on the Market-Frankford Line last Wednesday. Authorities have said the attack lasted several minutes and other riders on the train did not intervene. 

Instead, authorities have said some of the other passengers held their phones up in the direction of the attack. The Delaware County District Attorney on Thursday refuted that claim, but said there were people filtering off and on the train as the rape occurred. 

"I do think that SEPTA needs to clean-up and safeguard and deploy law enforcement," Oh told FOX 29's Steve Keeley. "Not public safety people that have a cell phone and cannot actually intervene, they actually need to use SEPTA police and safeguard their employees as well."

Police are now also investigating a series of sexual assaults they say occurred on SEPTA property, including trains. A man has been taken into custody in connection with several alleged incidents. Some of those incidents are believed to have involved school-age victims. 

On Tuesday, police say a 16-year-old girl was robbed at knifepoint at the Race-Vine station along the Broad Street Line. 

SEPTA rape investigation: Charges unlikely for riders who saw Philadelphia train attack

Charges are unlikely to be filed against fellow passengers who authorities say did not intervene in an alleged rape on a crowded SEPTA train last week, prosecutors say. Investigators have said some passengers held their phones up in the direction of the incident.

Oh also referenced a February shooting outside of the Olney Transportation Center that wounded 8 individuals. He says that particular shooting is one of 19 that have occurred in ‘close proximity’ to that transportation center. 

The resolution calls for SEPTA to take immediate action and ‘explore new policies and procedures to protect riders and employees; now." 

Speaking with FOX 29's Steve Keeley, Oh said he has "great respect" for SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel, but said he needs to answer questions related to the spike in violence under his watch. Sources tell Keeley that Nestel may have withheld information about known violent offenders to help the service's public image.

"I look at [Nestel's history in the past - I've worked with him in the past - but as you say, the question is today, the last 6 months, the last year, and I think there are great issues that have to be answered by [Nestel] and by SEPTA," Oh said.

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