Once upon a time, Metro was hailed as the most modern, cleanest, and safest public transit system in America, but not anymore. Rumors began circulating yesterday on the blog “UnsuckDCMetro” of an armed robbery on the Orange Line in December, and now local CBS affiliate, WUSA9 News has issued a partial confirmation from a Metro spokesperson:
On Dec. 23, Metro Transit Police responded immediately to a report of a robbery that had just taken place, and within 30 minutes the suspects were positively identified, arrested and the stolen property recovered. In an effort to address crime in the Metro system, the MTPD recently reassigned sworn officers out of administrative functions and office buildings into stations, trains and buses to better protect our customers from crime and to increase their ability to respond as quickly as possible. Here is a good example of how that redeployment makes a difference.
However, the report from WUSA9 mentions that there was no gun or any other weapon used in the incident, as had been claimed on UnsuckDCMetro.
Nevertheless, this incident and several others in the past few months are part of a disturbing trend. Data available from the Metro Transit Police show a dramatic increase in crime on Metro trains over the period from 2005-2009. After a spate of recent attacks, most notably the L’Enfant Plaza gang brawl last summer, it is clear that the trend has continued into 2011, and Metro has a growing problem on its hands.
Meanwhile, the Washington Examiner reports that the Metro Transit Police Union is calling for the resignation of their current Chief, Michael Taborn after a no-confidence vote. Although Taborn has introduced tough new policies like random bag checks and has increased the number of Transit Police officers on the beat, it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to tackle the rising crime rate.
The crime data published by Metro shows positive gains in the area of parking lot security after the transit agency took steps in 2007 to improve security in high-risk neighborhoods such as New Carrollton—ironically, the destination of the train on which the December 23 robberies took place. Hopefully similar measures in stations and aboard Metro trains will bring an end to this outbreak of violent crime.