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Officials break down hike in serious Metro crime in 2015

Metro Transit Police Department\'s jurisdiction extends to D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The MTPD has 420 sworn police officers, 106 security special police and 24 civilian personnel. It was created in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. (WTOP)

WASHINGTON — The number of the most serious crimes in the Metrorail system and at Metrobus stops increased in 2015.

A Metro Transit Police review of what the FBI refers to as “Part I” crime data from 2015 finds increased in robberies and aggravated assaults. The report does not specifically address the number of simple assaults, which are categorized as “Part II” crime, but overall arrests by Metro Transit Police rose six percent in 2015 over 2014, and overall citations and summonses increased by over 20 percent.

The two people killed in the Metro system last year are not officially part of the Transit Police crime report because homicides are handled by the local police department.

Kevin Sutherland, 24, was stabbed to death on a Red Line train July 4, and 20-year-old Eric Melgar was killed at the Wheaton Metro garage on July 14.

Metro Transit Police also increased enforcement of fare evasion, which included 4,750 citations — a nearly 30 percent increase over 2014.

New Metro Board Chair D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans says he will meet with General Manager Paul Wiedefeld this week to discuss overall issues of safety and reliability.

“I believe Metro is safe, but there is a perception because of something like what happened at Gallery Place … and events that have happened over the past year that maybe it’s not as safe as it could be, and we have to change that reality and that perception,” Evans said Thursday.

Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik emphasizes that the number of Part I crimes, which also include burglary, theft and arson, is the second-lowest it has been since 2008.

“Going back 7 or 8 years really tells the story, so we’re on the right track. Again, it’s through the deployment of our resources, using technology, the awareness campaigns, reaching out to our riders,” Pavlik says.

He says the department has enough resources to protect riders in the system, even as he tries to address a nearly ten percent vacancy rate.

“Most of our Part I crime, 55 percent of it, is here in the District of Columbia, followed by about 26 percent Prince George’s County, and when you look geographically [at] where that’s occurring, most of it is in Ward 7, Ward 8: Anacostia Station continues to be a challenge for us, Congress Heights, Southeast D.C., and then right there on the border of Prince George’s County, so a lot of our resources [are] there,” Pavlik says.

“When you look at Virginia, they only account for three percent of our Part I crimes, and then when you drill down … most of those are stolen bicycles — a lot of property crime, not so much robbery force and violence,” he adds.

Across the system, and including incidents at bus stops, there were 383 robberies reported to Metro Transit Police in 2015, up from 285 in 2014.

“I know some of the same areas we’ve been challenged with — like Ward 7, Ward 8, Anacostia — you know [D.C. Police have] been challenged …. but some of the same increases we’re seeing, the jurisdictions are seeing, and in some cases at a higher level than we are,” he says.

There also has been an increase in assaults on bus operators, with many of the attacks tied to arguments with riders including disputes over fare evasion.

Pavlik says there have been no further incidents of handicap placards getting stolen from cars parked in Metro garages after two people were arrested in a rash of incidents in August.

Overall, robberies and the theft of cellphones and other devices are among the most common criminal issues police deal with.

“We’re all so cellphone dependent, and it’s more than a cellphone, so there’s this misnomer out there that they’re going to steal your phone and reactivate it — they’re not. That’s still a gaming device, a video device, music device, you name it,” Pavlik says.

“Really good street advice whether you’re on the Metro system or on a street corner, restaurant or local mall, [is] just use good common sense — two hands at all times, not using it at all [if you can avoid it], and then keep your head on a swivel, pay attention to your surroundings,” he adds.

Pavlik says many of the robberies involve two or three people surrounding a person, with one of the robbers taking the phone and others running away as decoys or to pass the phone off to another person.

 

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