SEPTA to increase penalties for quality-of-life offenses

SEPTA Transit Police Chief Charles Lawson speaks Wednesday, March 6, at the authority’s headquarters.

SEPTA has announced that it will reintroduce an enforcement program for quality-of-life violations. The return of this program is part of a larger effort to discourage negative incidents, particularly from repeat offenders, and improve the customer experience.

Beginning July 1, Transit Police will issue Code Violation Notices (CVNs) for “low-level crimes,” such as smoking, littering, public urination, and other offenses. Offenders will be issued a ticket, and a copy will be forwarded to the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Administrative Review (OAR) and fines will range from $25 to $150.

Notices for quality-of-life violations are not new as Transit Police have been issuing them, specifically Administrative Enforcement Notices (AENs), since 2019. The difference is that while AENs carry a fine, similar to CVNs, they are not court-enforced. The projection is that these new CVNs will prove more effective in preventing quality-of-life violations and promoting a positive impact for SEPTA and their customers.

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“The shift to Code Violation Notices demonstrates our commitment to stepping up enforcement of quality-of-life offenses,” SEPTA CEO Leslie Richards said in a statement. “These violations are often the subject of customer complaints and can be associated with more serious crimes. Our customers and employees deserve to feel safe when they are traveling on SEPTA.”

“Code Violation Notices are legal instruments backed by the courts,” added Transit Police Chief Charles Lawson. “With this change, SEPTA is sending a clear message to would-be offenders: If you commit an offense on SEPTA property, you will be held accountable.”

In addition to the CVN policy, SEPTA remains committed to continuing the growth of its police force. Transit Police have seen sustained growth and currently employ 230 sworn officers. SEPTA officials say there are no plans to slow the expansion of its police force and they will continue to hire more officers for the sake of maintaining a safe and secure environment.

The work done by SEPTA and its Transit Police force has already resulted in a 45 percent decrease in serious crime in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period of 2023.