Atlamont Commuter Trains to Get Digital Surveillance System

Nov. 4--STOCKTON -- Transit officials are installing new security cameras to improve safety on board the Altamont Commuter Express.

The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, which owns and operates ACE trains, on Thursday hired a firm to put 110 digital security cameras throughout the ACE trains. The cameras will cost about $236,000, ACE officials said.

The installation should be completed within the next 30 to 45 days.

Each train car will have four security cameras that will record passengers as they enter and exit the train, said Brian Schmidt, rail program manager for ACE. There will also be cameras on the control car.

Schmidt said the cameras are meant to help law enforcement officers investigate crimes that might happen aboard the train. Only police and ACE officials will view the video footage as needed.

"If something occurs, you have video footage," Schmidt said. "You can transmit those photographs to other agencies."

ACE operates three daily round-trip commuter trains between Stockton and San Jose, with stops in Lathrop, Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont and Santa Clara. The train carries about 1,300 daily commuters.

Some ACE passengers say they hope the cameras will deter potential criminals from boarding the train.

"It will prevent terrorists from doing unwanted activities," said Nelson Mascarenhas, who rides ACE from Tracy to San Jose, where he works as a software engineer. "I would feel a lot safer."

The cameras are being paid for with an $800,000 grant from the federal Office of Homeland Security. The agency recently allocated $7.1 million for public transit among agencies in the Bay Area and San Joaquin County. That money is being shared among various agencies for more security measures, including technology that could detect explosives, Schmidt has said.

ACE also plans to use the grant to pay for a tracking system so officials can spot the exact location of trains. Transit agencies throughout the Bay Area, including ACE, are working to create a radio system so they can talk directly to each other. Currently, if an incident occurs, that information is filtered through law enforcement before it is sent along to other agencies, Schmidt said.

<<Record, The (Stockton, CA) (KRT) -- 11/07/05>>

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