April 11, 2017
Facing a steady stream of complaints from subway commuters about panhandling, SEPTA unveiled an initiative this week to address the problem.
SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel III announced that the transit agency has acknowledged riders' concerns and will take a "balanced approach" to increase safety on both the Broad Street Line and the Market-Frankford Line.
The measures are designed to crack down on individuals who move from one subway car to the next asking riders for money. Most panhandlers' requests result in a minor annoyance, but riders could face potentially dangerous situations within the close quarters of SEPTA vehicles.
Some steps taken by SEPTA to address the issue will be noticed by riders, but others will not.
On subway trains, SEPTA has deployed plainclothes officers tasked with identifying panhandlers. While arrests could occur for such behavior, SEPTA will try to steer offenders toward social services to reduce recurrence.
Officers will warn offenders about the prohibited activity but also offer information for programs that could provide support. If caught again, panhandlers are subject to arrest.
While discussing the initiative on social media, Nestel hinted about additional safety tools to combat the issue. Efforts include a text line so riders can report illegal activity.
For now, riders are encouraged to contact the SEPTA Transit Police Department during emergencies at (215) 580-8111.