SEPTA Launching Covert Text-to-911 Service for Passengers

So you can rat out lawbreaking riders without being fingered as the narc.

If you’re a frequent rider of SEPTA’s buses, trains or trolleys, you’ve been there: You see someone doing something very bad, and you’re not sure what to do about it.

Maybe you see a nearly comatose mother neglecting her child:

Or maybe you witness a parent abusing her toddler, as I have on at least two occasions.

Or maybe it’s a guy brazenly injecting himself with something in the seat across from you. Check out this latest people-doing-bad-things-on-SEPTA video:

What do you do? Do you say something to the offending passenger? Who can forget the crew who shot up a SEPTA bus in 2011 after a concerned passenger intervened when a mother was mistreating her child:

Do you summon your inner Dirty Harry and physically remove an unruly passenger from the bus?

Or do you get on your phone and call 911? Yes, the police will be dispatched, but you’ll probably be in fear for your life in the meantime. In the case of the out-of-it mom neglecting her child on the bus, police only found out about the incident after the cowardly videographer uploaded the disturbing clip, creating a social media frenzy.

SEPTA thinks it has the answer to these quandaries with an in-development text-to-911 service that will allow passengers to secretly have a two-way conversation with emergency dispatchers from the safety of their cell phones.

SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel recently told NBC 10 about the program in response to the station’s inquiries into the video of the man shooting up on the bus.

“It’ll be manned 24/7,” promised Nestel. “…[T]hey will get that information to the correct person and agency or patrol that needs it.”

SEPTA is staying mum on further details, with a SEPTA spokesperson telling Philadelphia that it was a little early for Nestel to talk about the plan but confirming that it is expected to be deployed this summer.

If it works as it is supposed to — which is not always a given when SEPTA and technology intersect — a text-to-911 service on SEPTA sounds like a very good idea.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.