SEPTA’s new chief knows the system

On his first day on the job, SEPTA police Chief Thomas Nestel walked into the 13th Street station of the Market-Frankford Line and found a gate to the platform wide open and an empty cashier booth.

Was it an act of terrorism? An assault on the cashier?

Apparently, just a routine bathroom break.

Nestel, 50, began this week as SEPTA’s top cop after almost five years as police chief in Upper Moreland. Getting acquainted with the system won’t be too difficult since Nestel once patrolled it as a transit officer. Terrorism and operator assaults are just two of the issues now confronting the force of about 270 sworn officers, but Nestel said he won’t implement any knee-jerk solutions.

“I know that we’ve had some cell phone theft issues. I know that we’ve had some homeless issues,” said the burly Northeast Philadelphia resident. “It’s where are those problems and to what extent are they and what are we doing about them now?

“What we may be doing may be the best course of action, but I like to talk to the people on the system.”

Nestel said he would review the deployment of officers. With students about to return to school, patrols usually ramp up between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to deter crime. Transit police went on a nine-day strike earlier this year, but Fraternal Order of Transit Police President Richard Neal Jr. said he looks forward to having a positive working relationship with management.

“I look forward to working with him … taking this police department to the next level,” Neal said.

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