By Howard Monroe

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The next time you take a subway in Center City, you’ll see additional patrols. SEPTA is expanding a program that adds security guards to trains and platforms. Eighty eight additional security guards are being added to the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines. They’ll be on patrol around the clock.

SEPTA Announces Plans To Increase Security On Market Frankford, Broad Street Lines

Every day, twice a day, Kina Watson travels the Market-Frankford Line. But on this day she has added company: additional security guards contracted through SEPTA. The agency calls them “outreach specialists.”

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“Sometimes it’s unsafe due to what’s going on on SEPTA, some of the stuff you see,” Watson said.

The agency says during the pandemic they’ve seen a surge in serious crimes, including robbery across the system. It has prompted them to add 88 unarmed guards. The program started in February but it’s now expanding.

“It’s not a replacement for police,” SEPTA Police Cheif Thomas Nestel said. “It’s an enhancement and it’s a force multiplier.”

SEPTA admits its struggling to find trained police officers. While they’re budgeted for 260 officers, they only have 210 on staff. It hopes the guards will augment police by engaging with customers about the rules of riding and will also guide people who are homeless to appropriate services. They’re also in direct communication with transit police for more serious matters.

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“Look we’re looking to do everything we can,” Leslie Richards, the CEO and General Manager of SEPTA, said. “We need as many eyes and ears and we need as much help as we can get.”

Meanwhile, the Center City District says safety is a contributing factor to Philadelphia’s recovery post pandemic. During its State of the City, they say the city is coming back but it’s lagging behind other cities in private sector job growth.

“It’s growth that provides the resources for government to invest in education and public services. Philly clearly needs more robust growth,” Paul Levy, with Center City District, said.

The new guards were deployed immediately. SEPTA says it’s spending $6.6 million on this part of their safety program.

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