Amid crime concerns, Metro boosts police presence

WASHINGTON — One day after a shooting on a Green Line train and amid mounting concerns from riders about crime, Metro is trying to get more police officers out in the system.

At a Thursday board meeting, Metro announced it will create more of an overlap between morning and evening shifts to provide increased patrols as schools let out and afternoon rush hour picks up. The transit agency’s board members hope the change will help riders feel safer and cut down on a slight uptick in crime at those times.

Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik says 17 officers that currently guard Metro’s money in its fareboxes will be switched to patrols and other duties. A private security company will be hired to watch over the cash, increasing the available number of officers an estimated 3 percent.

Pavlik says the department has about 440 officers right now — a nine to 10 percent vacancy rate.

“I would argue any extra officers is an addition, so whether it’s 17, seven or 70, I’m taking every one I can,” Pavlik says.

In addition to looking at changes to police uniforms to make officers more visible in stations, on trains and on buses, Metro plans to put injured officers who are on “limited duty” in key locations so that they can radio in any issues.

“We do have a safe system, so obviously as a chief, I’m going to take steps to reassure our riders and our employees,” Pavlik says.

Metro has arrested suspects in several high-profile cases, largely thanks to new video capabilities that can share images of suspects minutes after any incident, Pavlik says.

“If you were going to do something bad, and your chance of getting caught was nearly 100 percent, I think you’d think twice, and I think that has maybe not been clear,” Metro Board Member Harriet Tegoning says.

Two teenagers accused of armed robbery in connection with the shooting on a Green Line train at the Anacostia Metro Station this week were arrested within an hour of the incident.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld says the changes announced Thursday were in the works before the shooting, as part of a more comprehensive look at addressing crime in the system.

“Clearly, overall the system’s safe. You have these episodic events, and they’re terrible, they’re just terrible, so I think just to reassure people that we’re doing everything we can,” Wiedefeld says.

Metro is planning to make new announcements in stations and add public service announcements addressing the issue.

Beyond crime, overall injuries rose for Metro riders and workers in 2015 compared to 2014.

The overall injury rate for riders was 1.75 injuries per million trips.

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