WASHINGTON - Amtrak passengers have a new way to alert police during a crisis.
The Amtrak Police Department is introducing "Txt-a-Tip," which allows passengers and employees to report suspicious activity, crime or emergencies to Amtrak's National Communications Center via SMS text messaging on their smartphones.
Smartphone users can send tips to APD11 (27311).
Passengers who report suspected criminal or suspicious activity using the system will receive a message acknowledging the report, and will then be connected to a live Amtrak police officer. That officer will then correspond directly via text message with the person to learn more about the situation and determine what action to take.
"What it does is it allows our passengers and employees and an additional means by which to contact us," said Amtrak Police Chief Polly Hanson.
Amtrak officials say passengers and frontline employees provide an extra line of defense by being an additional set of eyes and ears while in or around their stations, trains and facilities.
The text service gives passengers a discreet way to contact officials when something happens or when they have a suspicion.
Hanson said people who suspect something should remember, "It's always the right thing to do to call us. You never bother us. This is why we're here. We want to hear from our customers and employees when something doesn't look right and we want them to trust their gut, let us know and we'll send a unit and take appropriate action."
The initiative also is part of Amtrak's attempt to provide improved communication options for passengers and employees who are deaf or may have hearing loss, allowing easy and efficient communication of emergency information to the police.
Amtrak has a multi-layered security structure that includes explosive detection and vapor wake K-9 teams, trained employees to identify potential security risks, random passenger and baggage screenings and strong partnerships with local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies.
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