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Metro police force has grown with ridership, numbers show

Tuesday - 6/28/2011, 1:46pm  ET

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON - D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier raised a few eyebrows last week when she suggested to a congressional panel that Metro doesn't have enough officers to handle its ridership.

But a look at how Metro's ridership has grown recently -- and how the Metro police force has grown with it -- shows a balanced increase.

Statistics from the transit agency show that in 1997, there were 286 Metro Transit Police officers for the 148 million riders who used the system that year. Last year, there were 450 officers for the 217.2 million riders who used the system.

That means there's been a 47 percent increase in Metro ridership since 1997, and a 57 percent increase in the number of transit police officers at the same time.

Still, Lanier says it is not enough.

"It's not like policing up on the ground like I do -- it's a very different kind of policing," Lanier tells WTOP. "I just think they need more officers for a lot of reasons: One, it will enhance the sense of safety and make it a more unwelcome environment for criminals when they have more police officers present on the trains and platforms, but it really is a challenge to police that type of system.

"Crime in general follows transportation, it always has and always will."

Following Lanier's statement last week, Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn told reporters he'd take as many extra officers as he could get.

"Here, working with General Manager (Richard Sarles) we will identify those needs and identify alternatives," Taborn said. "We've employed a lot of things by putting administrative officers out on the street and replacing them with civilians, and so it is a process."

Lanier told the congressional panel that by contrast to Metro's roughly 450 sworn officers, the Pentagon has a force protection of 850 officers just for itself.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)