Public Transit Providers Taking New Approaches to Rider Safety

Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach to policing does not adequately serve the needs of all riders, transit providers across the U.S. are introducing new safety personnel into their systems to intervene in and de-escalate situations before an armed police presence is needed.

Whether it’s responding to individuals experiencing homelessness, people undergoing mental health crises, or passengers dealing with drug overdoses, transit police often lack the social services-related training needed to adequately support and assist these riders. And overly punitive responses to minor offenses on transit services can create more harm than good by intensifying police encounters and diverting officers away from the work of preventing serious crimes.

To more effectively support the needs of all riders and promote a greater sense of safety and security on public transit, providers in major cities across the country have begun hiring unarmed civilian personnel—often with backgrounds in social work—to handle these non-criminal issues. Known as transit ambassadors, rider ambassadors, and crisis intervention specialists, these uniformed personnel are helping to foster a more welcoming atmosphere for all transit users.

Edward Graham, National Center for Mobility Management, February 2, 2022
Photo: “RTA Bus in Service” as found on National Center for Mobility Management site

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