Security Guards Protect Against Teen Suicide at Railroad Crossing

By Matthew Harwood

A rash of teen suicides has led the Palo Alto Police Department to hire private security to patrol a train crossing where the suicides occurred, reports The San Jose Mercury News.

Oakland-based Admiral Security now stations a security officer in a marked patrol car at the specific train crossing where four teenagers from Gunn High School have stepped in front of oncoming Caltrain commuter trains since the spring. (The Northern California train line shuttles passengers between San Jose and San Francisco.)

Admiral Security CEO Mohamed Ahmed explained to the Mercury News how his security guards have been ordered to handle a situation where they find a person on the tracks.

After initiating a conversation, "if we still feel there's a risk that the person would endanger himself, then we would automatically report it to the police," Ahmed said.

The guards are instructed to call Palo Alto police and transit officers, who would respond to the scene. Burns said the department is not asking guards to pull distraught people off the tracks, but rather start a conversation and use "common sense" in dealing with a situation.

The guards aren't specifically trained to deal with a distraught, suicidal person, but Ahmed said his company tries to pick people who are appropriate for each assignment and gives them detailed instructions. In this case, he said, the guards selected are good communicators and "rate a little bit higher than usual on customer service and attentiveness."

The Palo Alto Police Department hired the private security firm because it cannot station officers at the train crossing all day while community members that have formed the group, Track Watch, cannot be there all night.

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♦ Photo by Darrren Hester/Flickr


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