Problems facing public transport surveillance

May 16, 2012

Few days ago I was having a chat with a friend on what ails many cities when it comes to public transport which is of great importance. It is essential to present a secure environment for passengers and staff. When public transit systems span a busy city centre, a wide range of incidents can happen and sometimes seemingly all at once. Commuters could face violence at a station, critical injuries near moving vehicles to mention but a few.For many countries authorities, to decide whether or how to respond isn’t always easy and especially if the information that reaches the alarm central is delayed or vague.This is the reason why a holistic public transportation security provides protection for passengers, personnel and assets and it includes caring for passengers’ safety during their travel, from the very start of the journey until the final stop and exit out of the public transport system, protecting the personnel during their complete work shift, during day and at night, as well as protecting assets regardless of location at stations, depots, along the infrastructure and rolling stock.

In my assessment and experiences, public transport systems both in urban locations as well as rural ones, cover very big security domains.The number of locations, vehicles and length of infrastructure are diverse and disperse.The multitudes of security-related events that occur originate not only from the volume of passengers but are also a mirror of many society’s issues and problems.Surveillance systems serve as the instrumental tool for security operators to be able to assess the situation at hand and make a decision remotely on what to do for each specific case. The ability to connect the right response to the right incident is the role of the surveillance system at its essence.

There is a big difference between handling violence or vandalism at a station, managing a response to pick pocketing or other disorderly behavior on board a bus or metro like in my hometown Melbourne and intercepting metal theft taking place on the rail infrastructure or detecting and preventing graffiti before it takes places at the depot as has been the case in many developing regions like Africa and Asia. Surveillance systems are great at capturing these types of events, being the prolonged eyes.There are challenges however, with enforcing transport surveillance. The vast number of people using public transport makes it a challenge to monitor compared to say,at Airports. Add to this the high number of entrances and exits on trains, buses, depots and stations, and designing an installation becomes tricky.

Contador Harrison