Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Metro Transit Police, meet your riding public

September 20, 2011 - 11:16 AM
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Guarding the rails. (Photo: WMATA/Larry Levine)

Mark your calendars, D.C. riders. The Metro Transit Police and the Metro Riders' Advisory Council are holding an open meeting with the public tomorrow night from 6 to 8 p.m. They're ready to answer your questions and explain away any elements of their work and Metro crime this year that you may be wondering about.

How are Metro Transit Police doing in 2011? I'm curious to see what concerns riders will bring forward. This month, one woman who went by the name of Ana posted her story of Transit Police brutality and included photos of the bruises. Will Ana's case or others like it become an issue? Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn leads a force of 420 sworn police officers, 106 security special police, and 24 civilian personnel. How will their operations be communicated to the public in this forum?

I'm reminded of how other transit groups have increased their communications efforts in recent months, such as when Metro's biggest union of employees held a public forum in early summer (in which one questioner referred to Transit Police as "overly militant and zealous"). The Transit Police most certainly have a lot they could talk about with the public, and I can imagine several questions and topics that will come up in the course of tomorrow's meeting.

Ostensibly, crime on the Metro has continued to go down, according to Metro's statistics. The August Vital Signs report says the overall number of crimes in the system was "26% lower in May 2011 than May 2010." Reported bus crimes are at the "lowest level in 10 years." How and why exactly? Do these numbers reflect the reality of the system? As The Examiner observes, there have been 904 serious crimes on the Metro in the first six months of this year, and last year, the system experienced a spike in crimes. The situation is hardly rosy, despite improvement since last year.

I'm also curious about the increase in bike thefts they've seen and reported throughout summer months and the steps to alleviate that throughout the fall bike-commuting season. Metro's Office of Long Range Planning is apparently coordinating with Transit Police to install video cameras at five stations where this happens most frequently. Will we hear about this and the monthly meetings alleged to happen with bus drivers to help reduce bus driver assault? Maybe this recent incident will be mentioned.

How much will Metro's version of Compstat come up?

"To identify trends or hot spots where criminal activity is occurring, MTPD adopted and formulated MetroStat," WMATA general manager Richard Sarles, alongside Taborn, told Congress this summer in testimony on Metro security. "MetroStat is similar to CompStat that is used by many large city police departments. Based on the information we receive through MetroStat, police resources are redeployed and reallocated."

And here's a question for them — why hasn't the public Metro Police blotter been updated on the WMATA site since March of 2011?

Here's the details on tomorrow's meeting from Metro:

Date: Wednesday, September 21

Time: 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m.

Location: Metro Headquarters, Meeting Room, 600 Fifth St. NW, Washington, DC

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