Pierce Transit adding new electronic system for security, crime issues

Pierce Transit will spend up to $45,000 for an electronic reporting system for its public safety department to collect data on crimes and track where officers are working.

Interim Public Safety Chief Bill Cassio said the Web-based reporting system will increase accountability and efficiency, and allow the department to respond more quickly to crime trends at transit stations and on buses.

“It gives me a much more strategic use of how I deploy my resources,” Cassio said. “I can respond in a more timely and efficient manner.”

Cassio said he expects the new system to be operating by Jan. 1.

Pierce Transit’s board unanimously approved the project July 14. Cassio said the change has been in the works for a couple of years.

He said it’s not a response to an outside investigator’s examination of whether two off-duty Tacoma police officers over-reported or falsified the hours they worked helping supervise transit security officers.

The investigator’s report in February said there was no evidence the two officers wrongly reported their hours. But it also said the transit system’s management and payroll system for command staff members presented “an opportunity for abuse.”

Cassio said potential problems surrounding time-keeping and activity reports were resolved in November when manual cross-checking of reports started.

“We fixed the gap in the accountability process,” Cassio said.

The new system will automate reporting by off-duty, part-time officers of tasks they are carrying out in the field.

The system will be used by all four work groups of Pierce Transit’s public safety department to report their daily field activities. They consist of: 40 Tacoma and 50 Lakewood police officers, 14 full-time transit police with the Sheriff’s Department, and 16 full-time-equivalent positions for transit public safety officers.

Off-duty command staff will be able to spend more time on crime problems, Cassio said.

In addition, he said, persistent problems on routes or at transit centers will be easier to identify. The public safety department currently doesn’t receive the previous month’s crime data until 10 days after the end of that month. With the new system, officers will be able to spot trends and respond within a few days, Cassio said.

The new software system will cost about $35,000. Another $10,000 is budgeted for unforeseen cost overruns. The total expense of up to $45,000 will come from transit system reserves.