'We are going to be aggressive': SEPTA police plan crackdown on crime (2024)

Officials from SEPTA said that they are planning to crackdown on crime following the recent spate of violence that has seen three deadly shootings on or involving SEPTA's bus lines in the last three days.

Charles Lawson, Chief of SEPTA Transit Police, said Wednesday that they plan to enforce the laws concerning a wealth of violations they see on the system -- from fare evading, to open drug use to illegal firearm possession.

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“We are going to target every criminal code on the books," he said.

Violence along SEPTA's bus system

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The most recent incidents began with an incident on Sunday night, that happened when a man was shot after being involved in an argument on a SEPTA bus.

Officials said the man killed in this incident, 27-year-old Sawee Kofa, was shot in the face at about 11:25 p.m. that evening, just moments after stepping of a bus along Castor Avenue, near Van Kirk Street, in the Oxford Circle in Northeast Philadelphia.

The next day, at about 3:45 p.m., 17-year-old Dayemen Taylor was killed when gunfire erupted near a bus stop at the intersection of Ogontz and Godfrey avenues in the city's Ogontz neighborhood.


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In that shooting, four other people -- including two women on a bus and two other teens -- were injured as well.

Then, on Tuesday afternoon, 37-year-old Carmelo Drayton was shot and killed while riding a bus in South Philadelphia.

Police said the incident happened on the Route 79 bus, near the intersection of South Broad Street and Snyder Avenue at about 6:40 p.m.

The gunman, officials said, hopped off the bus and fled.

In the most recent incident, a person of interest is in custody.

Stepping up enforcement

In order to prevent similar incidents, Lawson said that SEPTA police will not be afraid to resort to more strict tactics to ensure the safety of riders, SEPTA employees and others.

“We are going to abide by that legal precedent. We are going to remain constitutional in our actions, but we are going to be aggressive," said Lawson.

In discussing the recent incidents, Lawson noted that most serious crimes are down across the system.

Deadly shootings overall are down across the city, too. As as of Wednesday morning, Philadelphia police reported 55 homicides so far in 2024.

That's down 30% from last year and the slowest homicide rate since 2019.

Yet, he said, gun violence is an issue that refuses to go away.

“While it’s tempting to draw the conclusion that crime is out of control on the system, it’s really not true. In fact, we are experiencing significant declines in virtually every serious crime category across the board," he said. “It’s this category, gun violence, that we are not seeing the same effect in declines."

In an effort to prevent additional instances of violence on the city's bus lines, Lawson said he will be moving officers around to deploy more to bus lines.

"That's where we are seeing the need," he said.

Currently, he said SEPTA's police force has more than 230 officers out throughout system and he hopes to hire 40 more before the end of the year.

"They are as frustrated and angry about crime as I am," he said of his force. “We are frustrated by crime, we are angry about it, but I’m not concerned. I’m optimistic, I’m confident, confident in the team that we have to address this issue, confident in the partnerships we’ve forged this city, I’m confident in our ability.”

Need for special prosecutor?

Also, asked if Act 40 -- a law that would see a special prosecutor installed to handle crimes that occur on SEPTA properties -- could help his officers handle crime across the system, Lawson said that he has confidence in Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

There have been several shootings involving SEPTA buses in the past few days, majority of them deadly. These shootings come shortly after Pa. enacted a new law to appoint a special prosecutor to handle crimes that happen on SEPTA properties. Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner is suing to block that law and believes that forensics are the key to prevent crime. NBC10's Lauren Mayk has more on what he had to say.

“He is prosecuting our crime and he will prosecute this crime,” he said. “I have every confidence in that.”

Along with stepping up enforcement, Lawson said, they are working on ways to make it easier for SEPTA employees to report issues as they occur.

He also called on riders to alert SEPTA police if and when they see issues that they find concerning anywhere on the system.

The SEPTA app, he noted, allows riders to report issues directly.

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia.Further information can be found here.

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'We are going to be aggressive': SEPTA police plan crackdown on crime (2024)
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