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Park police could start security patrols of Westmoreland's bus station

| Friday, May 19, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Updated 5 hours ago

Park police officers could start routine security patrols of Westmoreland County's bus station next month under agreement approved this week by the transit authority.

The two-year agreement, slated for consideration next week by the county commissioners, calls for the park police force to expand its jurisdiction to the authority's headquarters on Bell Way in Greensburg.

“It's a step in the right direction. The riders, just seeing that presence will help us out,” said Frank Tosto, authority board chairman.

Over the last several months, the transit authority has implemented several security measures, such as installing video cameras on buses, to enhance security on its public transportation system.

Board members also have considered but not formally adopted a passenger code of conduct.

A park police presence at the transit center is a first for the authority, according to Executive Director Alan Blahovec.

No specific incidents or uptick in crime precipitated the move, he said.

“This is just about having someone here throughout the day,” Blahovec said.

When law enforcement was previously needed at the transit center, Greensburg police were called. Blahovec said there are no issues with city police response time and Greensburg officers will still be dispatched to respond to police calls.

Park police will be responsible for regular patrols Monday through Saturday, when the agency operates its daily and weekend bus service.

Terms of the agreement call for the authority to pay the county $29.90 per hour for the patrol work, an amount that is not expected to exceed $19,000 this year.

Park police Chief Kirk Nolan said the transit patrols will not require additional staff for his force of 31 full-time and 13 part-time officers. Park police will use officers on duty at the courthouse to patrol the transit center two blocks away.

“There will be a police presence at their terminal,” Nolan said.

Before the agreement is finalized, county commissioners must approve the contract and a separate ordinance that gives park police jurisdiction at the transit center. Both votes are scheduled May 25.

Commissioners over the last several years have expanded the scope of the park police force, giving them jurisdiction to patrol at Westmoreland County Community College and Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

Additional officers were hired to provide on-duty coverage at both locations. Park police officers also patrol and provide security details at the courthouse, county parks, Westmoreland Manor and the juvenile detention center.

Transit officials will pay for the added police coverage as part of its 2017-2018 budget approved this week. The $11.4 million budget includes no major changes in operations or to fares for paratransit and commuter bus routes.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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