(VIDEO) TriMet’s expanding Safety Response Team recognized as part of industry-leading honor for agency’s security and safety initiatives


American Public Transportation Association conferred TriMet with its highest honors for security and safety, acknowledging TriMet’s ongoing improvements to the wellbeing of our customers and the community

TriMet’s Board of Directors has approved continuing and expanding TriMet’s Safety Response Team, recognized for making a positive impact on the community and in the transit industry. The Board voted on Wednesday, July 26, 2023, to approve a new contract with Portland Patrol Inc. (PPI), the company that provides members for the Safety Response Team. TriMet’s Safety Response Team model, first introduced as a pilot in 2021, is one of two industry-leading advances in transit safety and security that led to top honors from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) earlier this year. The Safety Response Team discourages inappropriate and illegal behavior with an emphasis on riders in need, conducting social service outreach and providing referrals for housing and mental health services.

APTA Rail Security Gold Award highlights Safety Response Team, other security initiatives

TriMet has reimagined public safety and security on transit, for which the Safety Response Team plays a critical role. Our Reimagining Public Safety and Security on Transit efforts began in 2020, following candid conversations around racial injustice. TriMet earmarked nearly $2 million to kick start initiatives to identify agency-wide improvements to safety, security and the customer experience.

By 2023, our efforts to reimagine safety and security merged into an approach that emphasizes community-driven security solutions, using teams spread across TriMet’s system. Traditional security and police continue to operate on TriMet, but our new efforts call for a more holistic approach, where specialized teams act on their strengths, freeing up the Transit Police Division to respond to crimes and major incidents. Among the nearly 33,000 people the Safety Response Team has connected with, 4,582 have been welfare checks and 1,372 have been referrals to social services, including emergency and long-term shelters, addiction and mental health services, and immigration and refugee services.

“By taking a holistic approach to public safety on our system, TriMet has dramatically increased our outreach efforts, helping passengers in need across our system while making it more inviting for everyone to get on a bus, MAX or WES train,” said Andrew Wilson, Executive Director of Safety & Security for TriMet.

Safety and security are among the top issues for our riders, according to TriMet surveys. Through our reimagining process, we gathered feedback from more than 13,000 riders, frontline employees and community members across 14 languages and cultural communities. We also established a blue ribbon panel of local and national experts—our Transit Public Safety Advisory Committee—to advise us on national best practices for transit security, equity and community engagement in safety and security. By listening to community partners, experts and our riders, we’ve grown our roster of security teams over the past three years and adapted to the new challenges facing all metropolitan transit agencies.

TriMet’s reimagined security efforts helped us to diversify our security teams, using unarmed, non-police security and TriMet code enforcement personnel in most situations. This has given TriMet more flexibility with staffing and identifying the best teams needed to address incidents on our system.

Learn more about our security teams:

Safety Response Team

Customer Safety Supervisors

Customer Safety Officers

Transit Security Officers

Transit Police Division Officers

For a complete list of the teams working on TriMet’s system, go to trimet.org/personnel.

Camera-aided investigations

APTA honored TriMet with a Rail Security Gold Award not only for our diversified security teams but also for our camera-aided deployment of personnel. TriMet’s extensive camera network has more than 3,000 cameras on our light rail system, with roughly half upgraded in the past three years. This improved technology allows for monitoring the system in real time, to verify reported incidents and deploy the appropriate resources for improved outcomes. The security camera network features state-of-the-art cameras that TriMet personnel can remotely control to pan, tilt and zoom. They also record footage of incidents on or near our system and assisted our law enforcement partners apprehend suspects in 49 homicide investigations and 57 shooting cases in 2022.  It’s one more way to upgrade response times and curb unwanted and illegal behavior, and they come in addition to new violence reduction strategies that have more efficiently incorporated law enforcement resources.

In 2022, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), which oversees TriMet’s Transit Police Division (TPD), developed a violence reduction strategy called the Enhanced Public Safety Initiative. The missions focus on disrupting criminal activity, recovering stolen property and seizing illegal firearms. The missions rely on the Safety Response Team and others for support. Transit Police and partner law enforcement agencies address criminal activity with the shared goal of making communities safer by getting criminals and illegal firearms off the streets. Among other outcomes, these missions resulted in 93 arrests, 233 warnings, 25 citations and 74 exclusions from TriMet.

“It’s through strong partnerships and collaborative approaches, such as this enhanced initiative, that help us achieve our collective goal of improving safety within our community,” Multnomah County Sheriff Nicole Morrisey O’Donnell said. “I am proud to lead the public safety work of the Sheriff’s Office, alongside TriMet, to support the transit system and make our neighborhoods around them safer and stronger.”

Calls for police services dropped in 2022 by 14% over the prior year. While these include both criminal and non-criminal calls, they represent a decrease that has allowed the Transit Police Division to continue employing its community policing model.  This came as the Safety Response Team also increased its presence to handle situations that shouldn’t require police intervention. If they do run across a dangerous situation, they have a direct line to the police, however.

Safer rail crossings

APTA also recognized TriMet’s innovative approach to crossing safety with its Rail Safety Gold Award. Safety is a core principle in everything TriMet does, influencing all of our decisions. Transit agencies across the world have to contend with unsafe behavior around their buses, trains and trackways, and TriMet is no different. We work continuously on making our rail crossings safer, often tapping into emerging technology to better understand human behavior around our tracks.

APTA recognized TriMet’s ongoing project to increase safety at rail grade crossings using video analytic data to inform a Risk Ranking Tool that will help prioritize crossing improvements. In partnership with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the new approach uses deep-learning software to improve the accuracy of data over time and better understand human behavior around our tracks. The project is cataloging pedestrian, motorized and non-motorized vehicle traffic counts, which are then compared with infrastructure, operating environment and reported incident data. The goal is to identify and categorize rail crossings, using a Risk Ranking Tool, to prioritize the most effective safety enhancements. The project is scheduled to last through 2025. The project was made possible through a cooperative agreement with the FTA.

Safety and security innovations

With a reimagined approach to security and new groups like the Safety Response Team connecting with riders, TriMet continues to adapt to the needs of the public and be an example for transit agencies across the country. Throughout the U.S., transit agencies and the communities they serve are focused on safety and security amid new challenges. TriMet has adapted, and, as we look to the future, we plan to continue innovating and applying security and safety resources effectively as we work to make our system a safe and welcoming place for everyone.