Metro wants to ban riders who get caught on sex, weapons offenses

Metro is proposing an update to its passenger conduct rules that would temporarily ban those who get caught on sex- or weapons-related offenses while on the transit agency’s property, including trains and buses.

Like other transit agencies across the county, Metro said it has seen an increase in sex offenses during the last 18 months, including public exposure, and reports of sexual offenses have more than doubled during the pandemic than in previous years.

Metro said that its aim in proposing the changes is to “enhance safety and security to support the region’s post-pandemic reopening.”

The first offense will carry a 14-day ban; the second one 30 days. On the third offense, the suspension will be 365 days in a rolling 12-month period. The suspension begins as soon as the citation is issued. During the time of suspension, the person will not be entitled to any refund of unused fare that may expire during the ban.

Those caught on Metro property while they are suspended may be arrested for trespassing.

Currently, people accused of sex or weapons offenses on Metro are placed under arrest and typically released the same day and given a court date. “Some of them are repeat offenders,” according to the proposed amendment.

Riders may appeal their suspension, and there will be conditional exceptions that may allow use of Metro facilities under certain conditions.

Transit agencies in other cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas, have similar guidelines. Metro said that it is modeling the amendment on Atlanta’s MARTA.

The transit agency’s Safety and Operations Committee will present the amendment to the Metro board on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Metro’s watchdog agency released a report accusing Metro Transit Police of failing to investigate thousands of claims of criminal offenses, including robberies, sexual offenses, kidnappings and assaults.

The report said Metro Transit Police failed to investigate more than 3,000 reports of crimes between 2010 and 2017.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged the board to reject the amendment, arguing that it ran contrary to due process.

“In our criminal legal system, people are innocent until proven guilty; if they vote for this, WMATA’s unelected board proposes to reverse that presumption and punish people based on accusations alone,” ACLU Policy Director for D.C. Nassim Moshiree said in a statement.

Further, the ACLU argued, the enforcement of the policy could lead to “racially discriminatory stops and frisks and arrests by Metro Transit Police…”

WTOP’s Zeke Hartner contributed to this report. 

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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