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EXCLUSIVE: Acting SEPTA Police Chief Discusses New Strategy To Deter Crime Following Rape Of Woman Waiting For Train

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Police now have a person of interest in custody in connection with an alleged sexual assault of a woman who was waiting for a train on SEPTA's Broad Street Line.

CBS3 spoke exclusively at SEPTA headquarters with the transit agency's acting police chief who says he's confident there will be an arrest in the rape case soon. They're working with Philadelphia police to find out more about the person of interest taken into custody Wednesday morning.

He also walked CBS3 through a new strategy to deter crime and make passengers feel safer.

Starting this week, SEPTA police are adding about 25 fully-armed officers to patrol the Market-Frankford Line.

In an exclusive interview, Acting Police Chief Chuck Lawson said it's one of the lines hit hardest by crime.

"What we're hearing from our customers, day in and day out, is they're not happy about the conditions of the trains," Lawson said.

Lawson took over earlier this month after former chief Thomas Nestel abruptly retired.

"When they see the recent shooting incident or rape incident on SEPTA, obviously makes our customers fearful and we understand that. The reality is those incidents are low," Lawson said.

While rape and homicides are rare on SEPTA, not so with thefts.

In 2020, there were 924 thefts; in 2021, 776; and in 2022, so far, 316 thefts.

"To get some more police and everything out here, I think that's a good idea for everyone," passenger Audrey Foster said.

The extra officers will be on the platforms and trains.

"We have folks being re-assigned from our office of professional responsibility, our special operations section," Lawson said.

After getting off the subway, Lawson showed Eyewitness News SETPA's control center, where dispatchers answer calls and have access to the 30,000 surveillance cameras on the buses, trains, and trolleys.

"You're going to see more of us. That alone is going to make them feel a little bit more at ease," Lawson said.

SEPTA says it's 40 police officers short of fully staffed. They recently increased pay by 10% to attract more applicants.

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