Palo Alto replaces Caltrain track guards with cameras in suicide prevention program


After nine years of patrolling the tracks at Palo Alto’s Caltrain railroad crossings, the last of the human guards were replaced with cameras as part of the city’s Track Watch program – a suicide prevention initiative.

Cameras were installed in June. But technical issues have delayed the termination of human guards at two of four railroad crossings – Meadow Dr. and Charleston Dr. – until Nov. 16 according to City Chief Communications Officer Claudia Keith. The Churchill Ave. and Palo Alto Ave. crossings phased out human monitors in September.

Now, all four Caltrain crossings are monitored solely by G4S Secure Integration, a remote monitoring technology company in Burlington, Massachusetts.

The new monitoring system will save the city $1.35 million per year, according to a City press release.

The cameras have fixed, thermal and pan-tilt-zoom capabilities which can identify objects and humans up to 1,000 feet away in nearly 360-coverage, using artificial intelligence to identify “alarming” behaviors. Remote monitors out of G4S’s headquarters will call for emergency responder intervention and make announcements through the cameras to deter trespassers.

Keith and City Manager James Keene said the cameras would have significantly higher visibility than human monitors – especially at night.

Palo Alto parent volunteers started the Track Watch program in October 2009 after a string of teen suicides on the railroad crossings. City government took over with paid human guards in November of that year.