California city to install cameras along tracks to fight trespassing, suicides

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PALO ALTO, Calif. – Plans are moving forward to test out an autonomous camera system that would alert authorities when a person is on the Caltrain tracks in Palo Alto, the Palo Alto Daily News reports.

The technology, which city spokeswoman Claudia Keith says will be installed near the Meadow Drive crossing, is being counted on as a tool to possibly prevent additional deaths in the wake of a teen suicide cluster.

“We are moving ahead with a potential pilot ‘proof of concept’ for cameras and intrusion detection system sensors,” Keith says. “There are some procurement and operational boxes to check, but overall (it) looks promising.”

Autonomous camera systems are already used at airports and other sites where security is a top priority, but they have not been used on transit systems like Caltrain, according to Ken Dueker, director of the Palo Alto Office of Emergency Services. Adapted to Caltrain, the technology would alert authorities when it detects something on the tracks, whether it is a person or a stalled car.

The cost of the camera system and the start date for the test has yet to be determined, Keith says.

The technology, if it works, would augment Track Watch, a four-year-old program that places security guards at Caltrain crossings in the city, according to Dueker. The guards are expected to report problems and leave it to public safety officials to pull people off the tracks.

Other efforts to improve safety on the four miles of track that run through the city are also underway.

Last week, a Caltrain contractor began clearing vegetation near the Meadow Drive and Charleston Road crossings, Keith says. The point of that $30,000 project is to improve visibility for the guards.

Caltrain, at the request of the city, is also exploring the possibility of installing additional fencing. Spokesman Mark Simon, however, has raised concerns about its cost and effectiveness. “Our data indicates that the great majority of people who go to the railroad to harm themselves access the right of way at grade crossings and train stations,” he said. “There is no evidence to suggest widespread access by unfenced areas, or by people climbing fences.”

According to Caltrain, there has been an average of 12 suicides per year over the past 10 years. But at least 10 fatalities have already been reported this year.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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