Track guards to stay longer — cameras not ready yet

ON DUTY — A Cypress Security guard keeps an eye on the Caltrain crossing at Charleston Road in Palo Alto. Post file photo.
A Cypress Security guard keeps an eye on the Caltrain crossing at Charleston Road in Palo Alto. Post file photo.

By the Daily Post staff

It looks like the guards watching the railroad tracks in Palo Alto to prevent suicides will remain longer than originally planned because of “complexities” the city is experiencing in installing a camera system to monitor the tracks.

The city’s contract with Cypress Security, which provides the guards at the crossings, was supposed to end on June 30 when the cameras would be operating. But tonight (June 18) City Council will be asked to extend Cypress Security’s contract until Sept. 30. The contract extension is on council’s consent calendar, where several routine items are approved without discussion.

“This contract extension is due to the complexities in the city’s ongoing initiative to transition from guards to a camera-based intrusion detection and monitoring system,” City Manager Jim Keene said in a report to council. “There was always discussion of some overlap between guards and cameras as the city implemented this technology to test and review the efficacy of the camera system.”

The three-month extension will cost $330,000, which will come from savings in the Police Department’s budget, Keene said in his report.

The cameras will cost $1.5 million to install and $325,000 a year for remote monitoring and maintenance, the city announced in March.

Three crossings — at Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive and Charleston Road — will get four cameras each, while two cameras will be installed at the Palo Alto Avenue crossing.
The cameras will be able to see up to 1,000 feet down the tracks, and will have thermal sensors.

The city started using guards to watch the tracks in 2009, after residents began watching the tracks themselves following a series of youth suicides.

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