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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Private Guards Patrolling Moscow's Buses

MTSergeyev, center, speaking with Tupchenko and Simonenko at a bus stop near the Nagatinskaya metro station.
Security guards wearing black and carrying handcuffs and teargas surfaced on Moscow buses and trams last week with a mission to protect passengers from fake ticket inspectors, troublemakers and shoddily dressed riffraff.

The guards work for two private security firms that Mosgortrans, Moscow's surface transportation authority, has hired for a trial run of 10 days. Although the two-member patrols might look imposing, they are vested with very limited power to enforce order, Mosgortrans said.

Fake ticket inspectors are a big problem on buses and trams, using false IDs to collect 100 ruble fines from passengers, said Mosgortrans spokeswoman Olga Terno.

"We receive so many complaints about them," Terno said.

Another widespread problem is an increasing number of troublemakers who cut seats, write on them or spill drinks, she said. "We also have had cases of drivers being beaten by the hooligans," she said.

To deal with this, Mosgortrans has signed a contract worth $3 million per year with Fort and Vites-Vak, two private security agencies. About 200 guards from the two agencies are participating in the 10-day trial run.

"After the 10-day test, we will see how the patrol service works and what can be done to improve it," said Valery Sergeyev, the supervisor of Fort's patrols.

Sergeyev, who was giving instructions to two guards about to board bus No. 742 near the Nagatinskaya metro station, in southern Moscow, said "the men will use the gas only in extreme situations.

"Only if the bus is taken by terrorists. Gas is dangerous stuff, and we know that it cannot be used in closed places," he said.

Sergei Tupchenko and Vladimir Simonenko entered bus No. 742 in their crisp black uniforms Friday, drawing stares and giggles from passengers.

"What's that? Are we getting a bus militia as well?" said Lyudmila, a 68-year-old pensioner watching the pair.

"Well," she said after a pause, "the more security we get, the better. You never know these days."

Tupchenko said that after four days on the job he was used to the surprised looks. But, he said, passengers seemed to be better behaved when he was on board.

"People usually take their tickets out of their pockets and quickly stamp them. They are afraid that we might check," he said.

"They don't know that this is not part of our duty," he added, smiling. As he spoke, he glanced around the bus for suspicious-looking people.

Simonenko said the only excitement so far had been a fake ticket inspector. "We caught a fake inspector red-handed," he said. "We took his name and passport information to report to the police, but we let him go."

The guards have no right to detain people, Mosgortrans said. They can only use the handcuffs to hold unruly people while they call the police.

The guards also are checking whether people are wearing clothing appropriate for public transport. Dirty and smelly people are supposed to be prevented from boarding.

"We tell off people who wear dirty clothes," Tupchenko said.

"Sometimes workers don't change their clothes before taking the bus," he explained. "It is unpleasant for passengers to sit next to someone like that, so we don't allow them to take the bus."

Homeless people will be prevented from taking buses as well, Sergeyev said.

After three stops, the guards saw all was well on bus No. 742 and got off to wait for the next bus.

Sergeyev said each two-member team usually checked four whole bus or tram routes per day.