SEPTA proposes trading guards for 'guides' with new security contract

First heard on KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A proposal being considered today by the SEPTA board’s operations committee would abandon the use of contracted security guards. SEPTA is looking at what it calls “guides” riding the system, instead.

SEPTA last year hired Allied Universal to provide up to 60 unarmed security guards at stations on the Market-Frankford Line in response to drug use and vandalism. But SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel says only about 20 guards were ever deployed, and two of them made headlines in confrontations with riders.

Now, SEPTA wants to make a change. The transit agency is looking at a $20 million proposal to hire three firms, to replace its current contract with Allied Universal, that will provide a total of 88 “guides” to act as ambassadors. Nestel says they’ll be deployed at stations and on trains on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines.

“They’re not replacements for the Transit Police. They won’t be doing enforcement work. But they will be additional eyes and ears — just like our cashiers, just like our custodians — all of the employees are involved in the safety and security effort,” Nestel said.

He says they’ll wear SEPTA vests and khakis and have a different look than the Allied Universal guards.

“By hiring a person who is dressed as a security guard, our riders and our employees felt that that person should be engaged in enforcement action. And we don’t want to give that impression,” Nestel said.

The change would deliver 40 daytime guides and 40 more at night. Eight guides would be trained to close and open stations overnight, freeing up transit police who do the job now, Nestel said.

The full SEPTA board is expected to vote on the proposal next Thursday.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Andrew Kramer/KYW Newsradio