By Morgan Montlavo
Texas' largest cities each year log mass transit ridership in the tens of millions, and the numbers are growing.
In San Antonio, keeping buses, park-and-ride facilities and waiting areas safe is the job of VIA Metropolitan Transit Police
."Transit police are there because the transit environment invites some types of criminality," says Professor Meagan Hollis with Texas State University's Criminal Justice Department.
Hollis says large numbers of people moving quickly, and often anonymously, on and off vehicles and through hub facilities makes transit policing a mile-a-minute challenge.
In Texas, transit police are trained to the same standards as municipal police, sheriff''s deputies, or deputy constables.
"They are sworn Texas peace officers throughout the state," says Tremell Brown, VIA's vice president for safety, training and security.
Brown says transit officers' jurisdiction is tailored to the their task."Inside the vehicles, at the transit facilities, at the bus stops, and along those corridors are the areas that we patrol and maintain safe presence at," Brown tells News Radio 1200 WOAI.
Brown says VIA uses both uniformed and plainclothes officers, and works closely with all area law enforcement departments.
At a local inter-agency facility, he says, transit police and other officers share information on criminal activity and suspects.
On-board surveillance equipment, Brown adds, serves as both a visible crime deterrent and a tool for building cases against offenders.
Transit bus ridership in San Antonio and neighboring municipalities served by VIA is about 43 million annually, according to figures provided by the transit company.