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Here's how Sound Transit is responding to drug use on public transportation

To increase overall safety and security, Sound Transit and King County Metro are hiring more security personnel.

SEATTLE — So far this year, 87 people have died from fentanyl overdoses in King County alone, according to county data. 

Now, as the epidemic continues, there is a new push by transportation officials to keep public transit spaces a drug-free zone.

Sound Transit recently hired more security guards, according to spokesman John Gallagher.

The organization is relying on passengers to report instances of drug use so the guards can respond.

"We encourage everyone who is seeing something, to say something," Gallagher said. "Call Sound Transit Security. Numbers are on the train. You can see it. We've encouraged people to do that. If they feel it's a really, very threatening situation, of course, they should contact 911.”

Light rail service was delayed earlier this month when somebody smoked fentanyl on the train.

“An operator requested medical assistance because there was somebody who was smoking fentanyl outside the operator’s cab,” Gallagher said.

To increase overall safety and security, Gallagher said the board hired more security in last month’s meeting.

“We recently signed contracts with four new security firms,” Gallagher said.

Prior, they had only worked with one firm, he said.

“If something is happening on our trains, we would really like to know about it,” Gallagher said.

Drug use on the light rail is against the code of conduct law in Washington state.

That is why Sound Transit is cracking down on unlawful behavior, like drug use on the light rail. Here's how it works: a passenger complains by texting or calling Sound Transit's emergency number at (206) 398-5268. Then, "security personnel should meet the train at the next stop,” Gallagher said.

At that point, the guards will ask them to leave and violators could face a misdemeanor charge for breaking the code of conduct.

KING 5 spoke with light rail passengers Tuesday to hear their thoughts on the matter.

When it comes to security guards, one passenger said he believes less is more.

“I don’t like security," said Cat, a rail passenger who preferred not to share his last name. "Makes me feel uneasy."

Another passenger, military veteran Mike Anderson, said he feels the money would be better spent to combat drug use by securing stations to only those who pay, or creating “fare barriers,” in his words.

"Every day, I get off the light rail at Capitol Hill station, get off the elevator at the Cal Anderson side, and I'm one of like six people that tap,” Anderson said.

But another passenger said she welcomes the idea of more security guards.

“I have heard a lot on the news about, you know, like fentanyl use on like the trains and people passing out," Joelle said. "You know, I've seen that and I feel like it's really unsafe. That’s, like, not something you want to see when you're going on the Link at all.”

The bus system is actively hiring more security guards, too. King County Metro confirmed Tuesday they currently have 85 security personnel and hope to reach a total of 140.

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