City of Palo Alto to install suicide prevention cameras

Palo Alto is about to begin installing security cameras at all four of its Caltrain rail crossings in town.

It's a high tech system aimed at preventing suicide on the train tracks.  

The cameras will replace security guards who, for the past nine years were posted at the crossings virtually 24 hours a day, every day.

If the guards see someone looking as if they might harm themselves, they have been instructed to call authorities immediately. But the new cameras will be equipped with artificial intelligence that can detect certain behaviors.

"They'll be able to identify objects or humans on the tracks the human eye can't. It's a better system overall," said Palo Alto spokeswoman Claudia Keith.

The city says security guards will be monitoring the cameras at all times.   If they see troubling behavior they can call it in. And even speak to he person who may be having problems through loudspeakers. 

The cameras have an added advantage. They can also see in the dark.

The security program began in 2009, after a series of teenage suicides at the tracks. 

Caltrain reports 17 suicides on its tracks between 2010 and 2016.

"We've consulted with national experts on suicide prevention who have identified cameras as well as additional signage in restricting physical access to the rail corridor,"said Keith.

Mental health specialists support having the new cameras. So does Caltrain.

"Train tracks a re a dangerous place either through accident or someone harming themselves. We are happy to work with anyone out there who wants to make sure people are safe on our train tracks," said Dan Lieberman, Caltrain spokesman.

The city says in the long run the cameras will be less costly that guards.

The cameras should be up and running by this summer.