Metro police chief, officials cite lack of resources to address crime on Metrobuses

December 4, 2012

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said she plans to deploy more officers to help Metro protect its drivers and buses from crimes ranging from public urination to assaults.

The announcement was made as Metro said it would abandon a proposal to cut night bus service in an area of Southeast where the transit agency said buses are repeatedly pelted with rocks and bricks.

Lanier and Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn said they plan to increase collaboration between the two agencies citywide. Lanier said her agency, with a force of 3,900 officers, will deploy more uniformed officers to areas where buses are targeted.

Taborn, who has a police force of 450 officers responsible for protecting 86 stations and 160 bus lines, said he has struggled to cover all ends of the system. The two dozen Metro Transit officers assigned to protect Metrobuses are too few to handle the daily crime incidents, he added.

“We try to work smart,” Taborn said Monday night at a D.C. Council hearing in Southeast. “We depend greatly on the local and federal law-enforcement agencies.”

Lanier said she is considering a plan that would allow calls about incidents at Metro buses or stations to be dispatched to both agencies, not just to transit police.

“We will do whatever we need to do to help Metro,” she said. “I kind of feel bad for Chief Taborn . . . I don’t think he has enough officers to do what he needed to do to help take control of the problem.”

Metro transit police assigns most of its officers to subway stations, but Taborn said Monday that the agency is getting 32 new officers for Metrobus and he plans to redeploy some resources to buses.

Some residents and bus drivers at Monday’s hearing said the disparity in the number of officers assigned to Metrobus and Metrorail show the transit agency’s priority.

“They are protecting their interest, which is the subway,” Michael Barnes, a Metrobus driver, said during a heated public hearing where several riders argued that Metro has not addressed their safety concerns.

“They always want to get rid of the bus because they figure poor people ride the bus, so they got no love for us,” Barnes said. “When I call transit, they ain’t nowhere to be found.”

Taborn said the agency takes the concerns of drivers and riders seriously. He said the agency has an arrest record of 21 percent on crimes that include assaults and vandalism. But the agency needs more detectives to follow up and prevent some of those incidents.

Metro’s bus chief Jack Requa said the agency applauds the commitment from D.C. police to increase police visibility and boost the support to transit police.

In the past 22 months, he said, Metro has had over 1,200 broken windows along nine routes in the Southeast area. The agency has spent close to $2 million replacing windows during that time, he said.

“Those are $2 million we can use to improve service and add service to this area,” he said.

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.
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