SEPTA sees early signs of improvement in 2022 after 3-year crime spike

After a severe spike in crime during the pandemic, SEPTA says it's leveling off as ridership increases

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The arrest of Quintez Adams, accused of at least two sexual assaults including one aboard a SEPTA subway train, follows the latest in a string of serious incidents that have taken place on SEPTA that made headlines the past week.

However, SEPTA leadership said that after a big crime spike during the pandemic, they are down slightly so far in 2022.

The amount of serious crimes on SEPTA trains and buses rose drastically over the last three years, even as ridership fell because of the pandemic.

Between 2019 and 2021, robberies and assaults nearly doubled on SEPTA. Robberies increased during that time from 118 to 217, and aggravated assaults went up from 46 in 2019 to 86 last year.

SEPTA CEO and General Manager Leslie Richards notes the trend is leveling off this year.

“Violent incidents are down this first quarter of 2022 compared to last year, and our ridership is up, and I think there is a direct correlation.”

KYW Newsradio took a look at SEPTA crime totals for January through March of the last four years. Extrapolated over 12 months, data from the first three months of 2022 points to a 15% decline in serious crime on SEPTA compared to the previous year.

Additionally, violent crime seems to be down from even before the pandemic. In the first quarter of 2019, there were 299 incidents of violent crime across six types, including rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

In January through March 2022, however, that number was 238. This year, violent crime on SEPTA is only 79% of where it was for the same time frame three years earlier.

“When there are less people on the system, obviously less ridership also makes people feel less safe as well.”

With ridership now at 53% of pre-pandemic levels, Richards said there are more eyes and ears to discourage criminal activity. She also said SEPTA has electronic eyes as well.

“We have over 28,000 cameras on our system, and all of the incidents that just happened in the last week are being investigated. Arrests have been made,” said Richards.

“If something happens on our system, the likelihood of it being caught on videotape as well as being identified – as we released that videotape for help from the public – is pretty good.”

She said the pandemic exacerbated societal problems, and every major transit system in the country has been trying to address people who are homeless or suffering from addiction or mental health issues.

SEPTA is training 88 specialists to ride the system to provide an additional presence, in a move away from uniformed security guards and a move toward ambassadors who will ride the system.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio