TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A new security measure just went into place at Tucson bus transit centers, one that’s aimed at preventing dangerous situations for drivers and passengers.
Tucson Police Department officers are stepping out of the picture and guards from a private security firm are stepping in.
“There should be someone here. If something happens, we need help,” said Oscar Indo, as he waited to catch a bus at the Ronstadt Center.
Indo says he catches a bus at the center on Pennington Street and Sixth Avenue almost daily. He tells us he rarely sees law enforcement patrolling the station.
“When [police] are gone, drug dealers [appear],” Indo said.
Indo said he was once approached by a man selling drugs.
“There weren’t any police or other security staff here,” he said.
Shara Shaffer said there were times she’s felt uncomfortable at the center, too.
“It seems like there’s nobody around,” Shaffer said. “Especially being a woman, it’s scary.”
For more than 20 years, Sun Tran had an agreement with the Tucson Police Department, according to Sun Tran spokesperson Pat Richter. Officers could volunteer for overtime funded by Sun Tran and patrol one of the three transit stops around town.
“Unfortunately, Tucson police, like other departments in the country, they are experiencing staffing shortages,” Richter said.
Richter said the current agreement no longer met the needs the company sees at the centers.
“The police department was offering services in the afternoon on weekdays at two of our transit centers,” he said.
However, evenings and overnights are when security is needed most. That’s why the company ended its agreement with TPD and started a new one with G4S, a U.S.-based private security firm.
“We have two full-time officers that can cover 12 hours, 7 days a week,” Richter said.
The new service went into place this week, with security guards now a patrolling the bus stations between 6 p.m. until 6 a.m.
However, with more security comes a bigger price tag.
“It was an increase in a lot of ways,” Richter said. “But whenever you can prevent something from happening, whenever you can make a situation safer, it’s priceless.”
Since they are not law enforcement agents, the security guards have limitations. There could still be situations where police are called.
Richter said the added security costs will come out of Sun Tran’s existing budget and a fare increase won’t be necessary.