You never know who’s watching: Plainclothes Transit Police officers now patrolling the MAX system

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Uniformed officers with the Transit Police Division provide a visible presence on and around the TriMet system daily, now they’re keeping the system safe and secure with a not-so-visible approach. Plainclothes officers are conducting missions on the MAX.

Riding along on a plainclothes missions

Once the doors close and the train begins to roll, the officers in regular street clothes stand up, pull out their badges and announce, “Fare mission. Please have your fares ready.” The officers then move through the train checking tickets and passes.

On this morning, officers encountered a man with a ticket, but the validation time and date had been scratched off for what appeared to be several times and other validation information written on it. The officers have seen this before. They ask the rider to step off the train where other officers in uniform meet them. After talking with the man and checking his background, an officer writes up an exclusion order for 30 days.

For another rider, a background check finds he’d been issued multiple exclusions for fare evasion, which is theft of transit service. Since he doesn’t seem to be getting the message, uniform officers escort him away in handcuffs.

More than fare enforcement

This does reinforce that fares are required throughout the MAX system. Ride without valid fare and face a $175 citation or exclusion from a fare enforcer. If it’s a police officer – uniform or plainclothes – you could be excluded from the system or – if you are a repeat offender – arrested.

But if you think the police officers are conducting these missions to make sure everyone pays their fare, you’re missing the point.

A safer system

“The plainclothes fare missions are not about fare evasion and collecting fines, they’re about holding people accountable for their actions, and that leads to a safer, more civil transit system,” says Transit Police Commander Mike Crebs.

Commander Crebs and the officers of the Transit Police Division – in uniform or not – are dedicated to providing safety and security for TriMet riders and staff. Add to that the security cameras on all MAX trains and the majority of MAX platforms and buses.

The plainclothes officers have been getting a good response from the law-abiding, fare-paying riders, who get the added security element of officers who mix into the crowd.

“TriMet is not the place to disobey the rules, act out or commit a crime,” says TriMet Safety and Security Executive Harry Saporta. “You never know who is watching.”