A young kidnap victim was rescued by alert Valley Transportation Authority ticket agents Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office reports.
Officials say two VTA fare inspectors came to the 16-year-old girl’s aid after discovering she and her alleged abductor had boarded a light rail train without purchasing tickets. They detained the unnamed teen and her abductor, 23-year-old Merced Pacheco for fare evasion and then learned the girl was being held against her will.
Sheriff’s transit patrol arrived on scene shortly after 1 p.m. for further investigation and to ensure the safety of the girl. They arrested Pacheco for suspicion of unlawful intercourse with a minor and false imprisonment. The girl was taken into protective custody and authorities learned she was listed as a missing person.
“Thanks to the swift action and keen situational awareness of the two fare inspectors, deputies were able to respond quickly to the incident that was unfolding, which we hope has prevented a heinous crime from continuing,” Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Schiller said.
VTA fare investigators are responsible for educating riders on the rules of riding VTA and ensuring compliance with those rules by checking for valid payment. According to authorities, they are also an integral part of VTA’s “Safe Place” program, which provides county residents with a safe place where they can seek assistance from any VTA agent throughout the system.
“Anyone in trouble and needing assistance, whether the person is a runaway, homeless, abused and/or neglected, or victim of domestic violence, can ask an operator, fare inspector, or law enforcement agent about ‘Safe Place’ and they will ensure the person is safe and secure,” the sheriff’s department explained in news release.
Pacheco, a resident of Santa Clara, was booked into Santa Clara County Jail.
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