An MTS trolley in downtown San Diego. Courtesy MTS

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System board Thursday approved a $66 million contract with Inter-Con Security to provide services on trolleys, buses and MTS properties.

The contract, for three years with an option to extend for an additional two years, will go into effect Jan. 1. At the same meeting, the MTS board also extended a diversion program for fare violators for another year.

“This is an important day for the future of MTS passenger safety and security,” said Monica Montgomery Steppe, a board member and chair of the agency’s Public Security Committee.

At MTS, Inter-Con, headquartered in Pasadena, will provide support by employing 190 public safety officers to patrol the system.

The MTS service area covers 570 square miles, 62 stations and 53 miles of double-tracked railway. Officers conduct fare inspections, act as system ambassadors, support bus and rail operations and other employees in need and helping with lost and found items, among other tasks.

“MTS engaged in a national search to find the right firm to continue our mission to improve our approach to security and enforcement,” said Sharon Cooney, CEO of MTS. “Inter-Con has 48 years in the business, working with both federal and state governments, and presented an impressive work plan backed by the use of technology to track training and certifications. We look forward to bringing them on board.”

In January, MTS named Al Stiehler – who most recently served as chief of field operations for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the nation’s largest – as director of transit security and passenger safety.

Since July of last year, in the wake of the national protests over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MTS has been changing its security policies and procedures, including:

  • adopting many of the principles in the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign as a guideline for its use-of-force policy;
  • banning carotid restraints and choke holds, including the prohibition of applying knee pressure on the neck, throat or head;
  • adopting a “duty to intervene” if MTS security officers witness excessive force by another employee, and
  • conducting a third-party peer review of its security policies and procedures, and adding a community-based steering committee to assist with recommendations.

“We are committed to do our part to ensure the best possible experience for the passengers who rely on MTS on a daily basis,” Inter-Con CEO Henry Hernandez said.

In addition to hiring a new security contractor, the MTS Board also extended the Fare Evasion Diversion Program to Aug. 31, 2022.

The pilot program reduces fines, offers a community service option in lieu of payment and a new appeal window for fare violators. The purpose is to provide more flexibility for passengers who receive citations for not having a valid fare while riding buses and trolleys.

MTS is extending the pilot to get a better understanding of it, according to a statement. The COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to fully analyze the program thus far, so the extension is intended to allow additional time to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

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