Metro to install security cameras at station entrances

March 24, 2011

Metro plans to install 153 security cameras at the entrances of its rail stations and is also considering recruiting auxiliary police officers to improve security, Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn said Thursday.

With serious crimes such as assault and robbery surging on the system, Taborn outlined several anti-crime initiatives for the security committee of the Board of Directors.

The cameras, funded by a $2.8 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security, will allow police to monitor station entrances 24 hours a day, Taborn said. They will assist with managing crowds and with capturing evidence of crimes and will be installed over the next six months to a year, he said.

The cameras will be the first to film the exterior of the entrances to Metro’s 86 stations, and will take video of sufficient quality for use in identifying crime suspects, Taborn said. “They will be able to see people coming and going,” he said.

The current Metro cameras are used inside stations and are decades old, producing low-quality images inadequate for use as evidence.

A prototype of the new cameras was recently presented to officials from the District, Virginia and Maryland and was approved, he said.

Metro Board Chairman Catherine M. Hudgins suggested that Taborn also look into recruiting volunteers to serve as auxiliary police to supplement Metro’s 450-member police force, which Taborn says is stretched thin across Metro’s rail and bus network.

“There is more need than there are officers available to patrol the system,” said Kathy Porter, who along with several other board members said she supported the concept.

“We live in a region that is rich with law enforcement retirees,” said Jeffrey C. McKay, a board member from Fairfax. “There is a wealth of opportunity there.”

Taborn said he also favored the idea and would research how other law enforcement agencies are using auxiliaries. He said the recruits would have to be at least 21 and would not have powers beyond those of ordinary citizens.

Taborn also outlined how the police are responding to the rise of serious crime at the three stations that had the worst problems — New Carrollton, Branch Avenue and Greenbelt. Ninety percent of the crime at those stations is property-related, he said, and police are responding by distributing steering-wheel locking devices and deploying “robbery suppression units.”

Taborn said that car thefts are declining systemwide but that thefts of small electronic devices such as cellphones, tablet computers and Global Positioning System units are increasing.

More than 30 percent of the larcenies are bicycle-related, he said.

Metro customers who bike to the stations say theft is a major concern. Metro provides bike lockers at some stations, but riders have complained that the price of those lockers more than doubled last year, from $70 to $200 annually.

Nat Bottigheimer, Metro’s director of long-range planning, said Metro plans to build bike lockers during the next year and a half that will rent for about a nickel an hour.

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