Sunday, November 20, 2005

TRANSIT: An Air of Deceptive Safety on Metro

WHEN WE RIDE METRORAIL, we think that we're riding a very safe form of public transportation, free (for the most part) of crime. After reading today's analysis of Metro crime statistics by Lena H. Sun and Lyndsey Layton in today's Washington Post, that assumption may change. It is still safe to assume that we ride a public transit system that is safer that others around the country, but as the article notes, "Metro transit officials undercount serious crime at the region's 86 rail stations, leaving dozens of assaults, robberies and other major incidents off the official tally they report to the system's board of directors and the public."

Why is that so? Metro has had a long-standing policy to not report crimes at its Metrorail stations that were handled by an outside jurisdiction, e.g. D.C.'s Metropolitan Police, Montgomery County Police. As you can imagine, members of Metro's board are angry because Metrorail's low crime rate now seems to be resting on a foundation of misleading statistics.

NOW WHAT ABOUT THAT ROVING BAND OF TEENAGE GIRLS that has been assaulting riders on the Red Line? Now that's a crime the Metro Transit Police has been forced to deal with, and in the local blogging world, the account of one Red Line rider has been making its rounds, causing quite a stir regarding Metro's response to crimes that are in progress.

The situation involves the victim being robbed by a group of teenage girls of her iPod, following the girls from train car to train car as she's desperatly trying to find help, either from train operators (who slammed train doors on the victim repeatedly when she was waiting for help), station managers or the Metro Transit Police. (Passengers on the Red Line did nothing to come to this rider's aid, it should be noted.)

From passages from Thoughts on Metro:
[The transit police officer] said, rather than calling 911 or to use the emergency intercom to speak with the drivers, that I should call Metro Police directly. Why are the emergency intercoms there if the drivers don’t stop the trains for emergencies? Why is the Metro Police number not written up on the wall and in BIG NUMBERS in every car, for victims to call? Why can’t DC Police respond if they are closer?


I am sorry if it may be momentarily inconvenient for public transit, but in the bigger picture, safety comes first. Crimes are reported, trains should stop, police should arrive. That is the least that should be expected. Victims should not be ignored on emergency intercoms, victims should not be slammed repeatedly in train doors, when drivers have been informed of the situation. If trains are not stopped to wait for metro police, because Metro does not want extensive delays to transportation--well then maybe that highlights the fact that responses to emergencies and crimes are too long. And if station managers can not mangage to manage security incidents in their stations, I wonder what it is they are really there to manage at all.


If station managers are too intimidated to leave their booths, and answer a lone woman's calls for help from a group attack, then someone else who has authority to not be afraid should be there. Station managers themselves should not have to attend jobs that they fear.
A fascinating read.

>> "At Metro, Some Crimes Don't Count" [The Washington Post]
>> "What Happened Thursday" [Thoughts on Metro]


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