SEPTA and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office have launched a campaign to stop fraudulent injury claims by highlighting the growing role surveillance video is playing in exposing defrauders.
During a joint press conference on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011, SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey and District Attorney Seth Williams detailed several recent instances in which bus surveillance videos thwarted meritless claims against SEPTA, and led to criminal prosecutions against the individuals involved. Two cases are featured in public service announcements that will air on local television stations.
The videos are vivid and outrageous, featuring riders acting out injuries after SEPTA buses are lightly tapped by other vehicles – impacts so minor, most passengers aren’t aware an accident has occurred until they see the bus operator begin post-collision procedures.
Some claimants aren’t even passengers. Footage from one case featured in a public service announcement shows a claimant running down a street and onto a SEPTA bus that had been struck by a passing vehicle, then stretching out over several seats to feign injury. Another video revealed a fraudulent claim by a motorist who lost control of his vehicle, sliced through two lanes of opposing traffic and hit a SEPTA bus. He claimed the bus went into oncoming traffic and struck his vehicle.
Without the videos, these fraudulent claims may have cost transit riders and taxpayers thousands of dollars in injury payouts. Now, not only has this payday been denied, but with the help of the District Attorney’s Office, these individuals are being held criminally responsible for their actions. Williams said the videos are key to prosecutors’ efforts to fight fraud.
“A picture is truly worth a thousand words in these cases,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “These cameras have been extremely beneficial to our office to prosecute crimes that in the past have been very difficult to prove. We have entered a new age of crime fighting and it is all thanks to this new technology.”
Williams lends his voice to the public service announcements – detailing the fraud unfolding in front of viewers, and warns would-be defrauders of prosecution should they do the same.
Casey said he hopes this message deters the filing of fraudulent claims against SEPTA, which has seen injury payouts jump more than 10 percent to over $40 million over the last two years.
“Fraud perpetrated against SEPTA is a crime that claims our loyal, honest customers and the taxpayers as victims,” Casey said. “With the assistance of new technology and the partnership with the District Attorney’s Office, we hope to root out fraud for good.”
The likelihood of fraudulent claims against SEPTA being exposed continues to increase, as more buses, trains and stations are equipped with surveillance equipment. The majority of injury claims result from incidents involving SEPTA buses. Approximately 45 percent of SEPTA’s bus fleet is currently equipped with security cameras, with up to 10 cameras on-board the vehicles. By January 2013, SEPTA expects all of its buses to have surveillance cameras, as new buses equipped with technology replace older vehicles and others are retrofitted.
In addition, SEPTA has installed up to 12 cameras on each Broad Street Line subway car and 10 on every Market-Frankford Line train car. Most stations along these lines been updated to include surveillance cameras, as have some recently renovated Regional Rail stations. The new Silverliner V Regional Rail cars, which will comprise approximately one-third of the fleet by next year, are also equipped with surveillance technology.