Voters in Phoenix will be asked in a special election in March to approve a measure that would give private security guards the authority to ticket passengers who don’t pay a fare when riding on the metro area’s light rail system.
The Arizona Republic reports that the only people who can now issue such civil citations are police officers and their assistants.
The proposed change is subject to a vote of Phoenix’s residents because the change requires an amendment to the city charter.
City Council members voted unanimously last week to put the proposal on the March 12 ballot.
The crackdown on people who take advantage of the light rail’s “honor system” for fare payments has already begun.
Almost a year ago, the agency that runs the rail system began using contract security guards to patrol the Phoenix leg of the line. Private guards still can’t write tickets, but they can warn riders and turn them over to police.
Since the change, the number of fare citations given to Phoenix light-rail users has soared, from as few as zero in some months to 47 per month on average.
Figures show Phoenix has had a higher fare-evasion rate than Mesa and Tempe, where security guards can give citations on the rail line.
But city officials said the plan to use private security workers isn’t just meant to capture fare revenue. By primarily using contract workers to check fares and patrol rail cars, police officers and their assistants can focus on more serious crimes.
Security guards would be able to issue only civil citations to riders, including those who don’t pay fares, those who use tobacco on the train or those who cross the tracks illegally.
Hillary Foose, a spokeswoman for the agency that runs the rail system, said the change would be more financially efficient and allow for greater visibility of security guards on light rail.
She said riders will continue to notice an increasing presence on the rail line in Phoenix.
The police department also has stepped up its efforts on light rail, working with other city departments and nonprofit groups to launch a program targeted at repeat offenders who are often homeless riders with mental-health and substance-abuse problems.