Proactive Policing of the Transit System

How improved citizen and community involvement in law enforcement can reduce crime and terrorism.

Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

With San Bernardino being hit with an act of terror, potentially through ISIS, many people are now focused on one key global issue: Terrorism. 74 years ago from today, Pearl Harbor was attacked in an act of war by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Today, both ISIS and individual acts of violence continue wreck havoc all over the world.

Growing evidence is showing a connection of last Wednesday's massacre of the Inland Regional Center with radical Islamic terrorism. If investigators do find beyond a reasonable doubt that this shooting is linked with the Middle East and find that the Islamic State is responsible for this attack, count on this being an international story. But as I've stated numerous times, the transit infrastructure that we work hard to develop needs to be protected against all forms of violence and vandalism. That includes acts of terror. If a transit hub becomes a center for crime or a target for massacres or terrorism, what good will it be for We the People? I don't want our bus and train systems to become death traps.

So, how can we fight back?

To be clear, this is a transit blog. And The Transit Coalition does not pander to any other private or public entity. So I won't veer into the specific territories of any political agenda which includes partisan gun control laws. I will say that criminals and terrorists should not have the ability to commit crimes with any deadly weapon. At the same point, law abiding citizens must have the right and means to protect themselves through the 2nd Amendment. That's where proactive protection comes into play.

How proactive protection can secure transit

I strongly believe that our mass transportation system can be better protected through a process known as proactive policing.

In many cases, after a crime or act of terror occurs, the police react. That is called reactive policing. In contrast, proactive enforcement provides an extra layer of protection that could deter the act altogether.

The Community Oriented Policing Services office under the U.S. Justice Department defines proactive, community policing as "a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime." To be clear, proactive policing is not the cure-all solution to crime or terrorist acts at the local level. But being better prepared can stop many criminal and evil acts before they occur. The Justice Department has a good record in stopping would-be terrorists in the country in the past but we need to bring such tactics down to the local level.

So let's take the Corona Transit Center for example. This facility is off to a good start with 24/7 security and video cameras. I believe the surveillance at the station and aboard the RTA buses has helped deter vandalism. Good.

How can that be further improved? Let's suppose local law enforcement in the Circle City networked with RTA and directly with a group of regular commuters who transfer between Metrolink and CommuterLink express buses each and every workday. If that happened, the station area as well as their respective transit fleets could very well have a Neighborhood Watch arm, with a team of vigilant transit riders helping paid law enforcement in watching out for potential trouble before it happens.

In addition, by expanding the unpaid volunteer law enforcement ranks which would provide a stepping stone for those interested in careers in the field, the City of Corona could have one or more armed reserve deputies on patrol in the station block 24/7, proactively deterring violent crime. Any other block that has issues with gang crime, trafficking, or drug sales should also have a proactive law enforcement presence. With the strong support help, paid officers can then focus on the big and complicated tasks such as undercover investigations and criminal sting operations as their proactive tools.

With these or similar tactics, there would be enough defense and protection in the station block to be able to deter crimes and if necessary, disrupt and physically stop criminals as they attack, not well after. That would go a long way in preventing massacres and terrorism from quickly spreading in crowded transit stations before it becomes widespread.

The San Bernardino shooting mostly had a reactive enforcement presence, but there was some proactive activity. That was due to a citizens' tip which allowed police to catch the killers. That allowed investigators to identify and inspect their home in Redlands where they found the ammunition, pipe bombs and other circumstantial evidence linked to terrorism. Had the citizen not tipped off police, the terrorists may have gotten away and the situation could have been a whole lot worse. Plus, the possibility that ISIS played a role would not have been exposed. But we did catch the killers who were both shot down during a shootoff and law enforcement may have potentially found a link to organized worldwide terrorism.

Moving forward, it is long past time for the world's leaders to finally use military forces in an intelligent way to isolate ISIS and any other terror group and prevent them from bringing about further death and destruction to the world. We don't need this escalating to a full world war. Radical Islamic terrorism must be wiped from the face of the planet.

Once ISIS is isolated, the long-range diplomatic solution to all of this is for the world to challenge the head Islamic leaders to stop tolerating the radical interpretation of both the religion and Sharia law. I can say for certainty that the vast majority of good Muslims do not believe in the killing or massacring of innocents. The Press Enterprise reported today that local mosques have been preaching that since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Good progress, but the big leaders need to get involved and put that message front and center.

In terms of combating local and gang violence in San Bernardino, the numerous non-profit organizations there need to continue to do their good works in mentoring troubled youth, victims of human trafficking, the homeless and other people in need. By providing a place of belonging and mentors for teenagers growing up in abusive environments like the Country Inn Motel, the caring people at these non-profits can have a positive impact on the kids and discourage them from entering into the criminal gang culture. In the meantime, proactive law enforcement needs to be present to isolate and catch the criminal and gang leaders before they strike again.

Being a part of the USA, our transit centers and fleets should be tools for Americans to bring about life, liberty, and the pursuit for happiness to all who live here. The life aspect must be protected.