Metro thefts rise; parking lot crime drops

Metro officials said Thursday that thefts in the transit system doubled in the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2011.

Addressing Metro’s security and safety committee, Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn said the rise in property snatchings and pickpocketing was partially attributable to the growing number of portable electronic devices used by riders.

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Cameras captured an incident at the Van Ness Metro station where bystanders tackled a suspect who stole an iPad.

Cameras captured an incident at the Van Ness Metro station where bystanders tackled a suspect who stole an iPad.

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From January to March, 239 such thefts were reported, up from 119 in the same period last year and 76 such crimes in 2008.

But Taborn also said that in those 239 crimes, which do not include bike thefts, auto thefts, or armed or otherwise violent robberies, 125 people were arrested as part of the agency’s Crime Suppression Team — a unit that uses decoys to catch criminals.

Taborn said that crime in parking lots, which has been a persistent problem, had dropped significantly, to 63 reported crimes from 120 in the same period in 2011. Metro began tracking parking lot crime as a category in January 2010

He said the drop was due, in part, to increased patrolling of the parking lots, collaboration with law enforcement agencies such as the D.C. police and increased public awareness campaigns.

Aggravated assaults in the transit system were also up, rising from 25 to 32 over the same period last year. Bicycle thefts were up from 18 to 47. Auto theft and attempted theft were down from 38 to 20 in the same period last year.

There were 14 bus operator assaults, Taborn said, down from 16 in the same period last year.

In overall numbers, he said there were 15,050 calls for service, up about 5 percent from the same period in 2011, and 533 arrests, up 17 percent.

The crime report was one of several matters taken up by the safety and security committee. Officials also discussed the Metro mechanic who was hit by a train and seriously injured May 29 in a maintenance yard near the Shady Grove station. The employee remains in critical but stable condition, said Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman.

The employee was dragged 38 feet before the train stopped because the operator wasn’t aware she had hit the mechanic. She found out and stopped the train only when witnesses caught her attention.

The entry door at this particular yard was unlocked, which could have contributed to what happened, Stessel said. Metro is in the process of locking the doors at other rail yards so that the doors can only be opened from the inside. The meeting also discussed the state of Metro’s emergency exits, which was the subject of a report last week in the Washington Examiner that highlighted problems plaguing the system’s emergency exit shafts.

Since the beginning of 2009, there have been 555 emergency exit-related issues. There were 22 such deficiencies needing fixes as of Wednesday, with 15 of those problems lingering since 2009.

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