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North County Transit District in Oceanside, the operator of the Breeze bus service and the Coaster and Sprinter commuter-train service, recently cut back on security personnel at most of the transit centers they serve.

Since July 31, due to budgetary concerns, North County Transit District hasn't had a contract with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, a longtime provider of security. Several weeks after the lapsed contract, many of the transit officers employed by Heritage Security were laid off. The remaining transit officers now service only the Oceanside, Vista, and Escondido transit centers.

“Security is a board priority,” said North County Transit District board chairman Bob Campbell. “We are just trying to make sure we have an appropriate level of security in place consistent with budget and resource availability.”

The executive director of North County Transit, Matthew Tucker, gave some insight on the budget problem. The State of California has eliminated transit assistance for at least the next five years, resulting in NCTD losing about $10.5 million annually. The downturn in the economy means the agency expects to have a decline in estimated sales-tax revenue of approximately $14 million annually. The loss of revenues means that NCTD will receive about $25 million less than what the transit district expected to receive about 18 months ago. In regards to transit security, he wrote, “We are reducing our security program costs by about 50%. At the same time, we are completing a review of our security program deployment strategy that I believe will support improved visibility on board and at stations for both the Sprinter and Coaster stations where we have the highest ridership and activity.”

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI released a series of bulletins to law-enforcement agencies around the country between Friday, September 18, and Monday, September 22, asking them to contact local transit systems, popular hotels, and sports arenas, reminding them to be vigilant of possible terrorist activity. The bulletins were released due to the arrest of three terrorist suspects' activities in the New York City area.

The NCTD security offices in Oceanside and Escondido are staffed 24 hours a day, and they monitor all the North County transit centers by camera.

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Comments

Visduh Sept. 26, 2009 @ 8:37 p.m.

I'm wondering how you managed to talk at length about these "security" cutbacks and miss the fact that in recent days there was a fatal shooting by an armed Heritage security employee at the Vista Transit Center. We've learned little in regard to the shooting except that the guard fired two rounds, one of which struck his own foot, and the other that fatally injured his protagonist.

The decedent's fiance, who was with him at the time, claims the Heritage guard provoked a verbal altercation, and then when his insults got intense, fired when the protagonist took physical action against him. Again, little about the matter has been reported, and no charges have been filed.

When the Sprinter started service last year, every station had a security person on duty all the time. There were also roving security personnel on the cars, in addition to fare checkers. At the time, that appeared to be oversaturation. I never saw a single instance of anyone misbehaving.

The way this shooting plays out, if the Heritage "pistolero" is charged with a crime, and all the related sort of issues will have a big effect on security at all NCTD facilities. The story has many chapters to go.

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ranger22 Jan. 1, 2010 @ 12:03 p.m.

If the Oceanside Transit Center security personnel stopped obsessing about petty issues such as bicyclists, they would have plenty of time to devote to real security concerns.

A few weeks ago I witnessed a hilarious - and rather vulgar - tongue lashing by a security 'lady' behind a remote camera monitor and microphone of a young man stepping over the yellow line, fifteen minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive.

As rarely as I use the train, there is usually some petty issue the security people are getting into.

Hiring fewer, but qualified, professionals would be a good investment in travelers' security. Or else send them for training in the Bay Area BART for a month or two.

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