SEPTA Cameras Help Catch Suspect in Dramatic Video - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

SEPTA Cameras Help Catch Suspect in Dramatic Video

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PHILADELPHIA -

Surveillance video of a young woman thrown onto the subway tracks in Center City Philadelphia is absolutely shocking to watch.

SEPTA cameras captured the violent attack, and as a result of those cameras, police quickly nabbed their suspect.  He's behind bars on $2 million bail.

The assault happened Tuesday afternoon. Forty-eight hours later, police arrested their suspect.

Just a few years ago, it would not have happened so quickly, if at all.  But that's the power of a camera.

Mike Gritsko, a SEPTA detective, agrees, "It was shocking, it was horrifying."

The 23-year-old victim had loaned a stranger a cigarette lighter. Moments later, she's dragged off the SEPTA subway platform at the Chinatown station and thrown onto the tracks.

"I been here 20 years, and I haven't seen anything this horrific, where a young woman is just sitting there and brutally attacked," Gritsko insisted.

By Thursday afternoon, police had taken 36-year-old William Clark into custody, after a SEPTA police sergeant spotted him a few blocks away.

Sgt. Nicole Lawson told FOX 29 what caught her attention: "His facial features, with the pictures you could clearly see his distinctive facial features."

Those are photos she received on her smartphone just 15 minutes after the attack.

The surveillance cameras inside the subway station, which captured the entire assault, also provided police with their best lead.

"Oh it's phenomenal! SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel told FOX 29.

"It's phenomenal.  Investigatively it's just no better tool," Nestel continued.  "Because that's a witness that isn't going to be afraid to come to court, is never going to get sick, and is completely neutral."

SEPTA now has tens of thousands of cameras in its subway stations, on its subway cars, and in its buses and trolleys.

"They're adjustable so we can move around, we can zoom in," SEPTA Detective John Cicala showed FOX 29.

Detectives can watch in real time or can review a recorded event after they get a 911 call. That's what happened with the subway attack.

If this had happened just a decade ago, the man probably would still be walking the streets, looking for his next victim.

"The video technology has really taken it to where I didn't think we'd ever be," Gritsko added.

The victim was not seriously injured. With so many cameras, there's no way SEPTA can monitor each one real-time. But the video is still incredibly helpful after the fact.

By the end of this year, SEPTA's entire trolley fleet, all of its subway cars, and 90 percent of its buses will have cameras.

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