Last week, the commission voted to spend more than $142,000 to design the cameras that can sweep Altamont Commuter Express platforms and parking lots. In the case of the main station in Stockton, the cameras will record areas inside the building, as well.
The cameras will have sophisticated software with “video analytics,” which in this case means they will have the ability to zoom in and read license plate numbers. Facial recognition software is not part of the cameras, officials say.
Footage from the cameras will be fed live to police agencies, according to ACE officials. It will also be viewed by commission employees 24 hours a day and stored for at least seven days.
Grant money from the federal Department of Homeland Security will be used to pay for the cameras, said Steve Walker, head of security for the rail commission.
Homeland Security grant money will also be used to familiarize fire crews and police officers with ACE trains, as well as to conduct a terrorist training exercise next year, Walker said.
Tracy firefighters will spend three days in November with an ACE train car so they can get to know its ins and outs, how to shut down a train if needed, and how to turn off the fuel supply, just in case there is an emergency, Walker said.
The cameras are expected to be installed by next spring.
They will replace cameras that have covered San Joaquin County platforms and stations for about 10 years. For the first time, cameras will survey stations beyond Tracy.
“The hope is to prevent something from happening,” Walker said, “to passengers, to trains, to property.”
Commission cameras that are now in place in San Joaquin County have no ability to record footage. Nor are they plugged in to police stations, as the new cameras will be. Wireless technology could even give officers the ability to view footage from the new cameras in their patrol cars, Walker said.
Allowing police to view footage in real time lets them see something firsthand, instead of relying on someone else’s description of suspicious activity, behavior or items.
The cameras and training exercises are part of a broader effort to make the trains, stations and platforms more secure. Walker says it’s all part of Homeland Security’s “prevention and deterrence” practices — akin to ACE suggesting to riders, as it recently did, “If you see something, say something.”
“We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can,” Walker explained.
Between train departures and arrivals, ACE employees shoo away people who hang out on the platforms or in the parking lot, where Walker has caught people having sex in cars or merely eating lunch.
“If someone’s just sitting there,” he said, “we have to be proactive. We don’t want people hanging out in the lot.”