PORTLAND -- Crime typically spikes during the holiday season on TriMet buses and Max trains, but the agency is working to curb the problem.

There's a good chance riders won't notice TriMet's efforts to stop the problems. That's because the new team of transit police is made up largely of undercover, plain clothed officers.

It's all part of a big campaign to protect TriMet passengers from getting victimized this holiday season.

Transit police are reminding riders to keep their purses, phones and shopping bags close. They're also putting flyers on the windshields of many cars at park-and-ride lots, reminding drivers to keep bags and other belongings out of sight of criminals.

MAXtrains and buses get especially packed during the holidays and items get stolen more often, according to TriMet officials.

The new Transit Response Team, made up of uniformed and undercover officers, will be doing random patrols, checking fares and quietly watching trains this season.

The whole notion is that the person standing next to you may be a police officer but because they're plain-clothed, you may not know that, said Harry Saporta, TriMet Executive Director of Safety and Security.

Transit police warned that passengers who wear headphones or are buried in a smartphone or tablet are the most vulnerable. They said thieves can use that opportunity to steal things without getting noticed.

Riders have also had phones ripped out of their hands, or bikes stolen from the racks when they're not paying attention, transit police told KGW. They also recommended never allowing someone to borrow a cell phone, because that's a common trick thieves use to steal them.

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