10 people were shot on the subway in New York City. Here’s how UTA is keeping riders safe in Utah
Utah Transit Authority officials stressed the importance of vigilance on trains, buses
After 10 people were shot on the subway in New York City on Tuesday, Utah Transit Authority officials stressed the importance of vigilance on trains and buses, telling riders if they see something, they should say something.
UTA has a “robust” police force to patrol the hundreds of miles of tracks and roads, said UTA Police Chief Dallin Taylor, and officers are trained to respond to a variety of situations, including active shooters or terrorist attacks.
“I think it’s only natural that when you have something like the shooting in New York yesterday that it catches everybody’s attention,” said UTA spokesperson Carl Arky. “And obviously, our hearts go out to all the people involved. ... But I don’t think that there is a heightened sense of awareness because of that incident. I think there’s always a heightened sense of awareness. I think the people who work in law enforcement understand that and know that what we saw in New York can happen anytime, almost anywhere.”
Many frequent UTA riders are good at spotting suspicious behavior, Taylor said. For less experienced riders, he recommends keeping an eye out for abandoned bags or other unattended items. Arky said riders should pay attention to gut feelings — anything that “doesn’t look right” or “seems suspicious.”
Riders can report suspicious behavior or activity to UTA’s police dispatch, at 801-287-3937 (801-287-EYES) or by texting UTATIP to 274-637. If there is an emergency, call 911.
Arky said most tips don’t lead to anything nefarious, but that shouldn’t stop people from alerting authorities if they have concerns.
“We would prefer to have people call. As an organization, we would rather err on the side of caution. ... And if it turns out to be nothing, a false alarm? That’s OK,” he said. “At least we know that. Safety is the No. 1 priority, obviously, and that was fully evident yesterday in Brooklyn.”
Ten people were struck by gunfire and at least 13 others were injured in the rush to flee the smoke-filled train in Brooklyn. All of the victims were expected to survive, according to news reports.
Tuesday’s shooting in New York doesn’t increase the likelihood that something similar might happen elsewhere, Taylor said, but it is concerning for those who work for or commute via public transit. As a “forward-facing institution,” Arky said, UTA is constantly mindful of the potential for danger and looking for ways to prevent it.
“We live in a world where if somebody walks into a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, they may not go home,” he said. “We live in a world where people driving down the road can become involved in a road rage situation, and they may not go home. ... I’ve always known us to be mindful of that: How do we want to help the public? That’s our No. 1 charge, and part of helping the public is to make sure that our riders are safe.”
As terrifying as an active shooter situation is, they’re still extremely rare, and UTA riders shouldn’t ignore the other day-to-day risks associated with travel, Arky said.
“I’ve watched people who had their earbuds in and their nose in their phone, and they walked across the tracks with a FrontRunner train bearing down on them,” he said. “And when I approached them a few seconds later and pointed out that they came very close to being hit by a train, they shrugged their shoulders and seemed almost bothered by my interrupting their day. People have to be aware, because anything can happen.”
Arky continued, saying, “I didn’t think he was going to make it. I really thought I was about to watch something horrible, and he just made it in time. I’ve seen videos of people who just weren’t paying attention, and some of them live to tell about it. Some of them don’t.”