November 5, 2012

METRO HAS ANNOUNCED it wants to reduce bus service after 8 p.m. in certain parts of Anacostia because too many of its vehicles are being hit with rocks, bricks and debris. A lot more than bus service is at stake. To cede these streets to troublemakers would signal to residents that certain neighborhoods are beyond protection. Instead, authorities need to redouble efforts to solve this distressing problem — both to catch the lawbreakers and to confront the causes of this destructive behavior.

The attacks, apparently by young people with not much sense and too much time on their hands, are terrifying bus drivers and passengers. The thrown obstacles have shattered windows, sending glass flying. Recently, a driver was hospitalized when a rock came through an open window and hit her on the head. “You can be ambushed down there,” Metrobus driver William H. Nowlin Jr. told The Post’s Luz Lazo. “The people that ride the bus are just as afraid as we are.”

Transit police haven’t been able to make any arrests or halt the attacks; efforts, according to a spokesman for Metro, have included increased surveillance and the use of plainclothes officers. D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told us that, while her department responds to calls for service involving Metro, transit police are taking the lead on the investigation.

We don’t doubt the difficulty facing police, but council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) is right to challenge authorities to do more. The low-income residents of these neighborhoods depend on bus service, and it’s unacceptable to carve out a part of a city as too dangerous for delivery of what should be a routine service. Imagine authorities throwing up their hands at a threat to public safety in Georgetown or Capitol Hill or Chevy Chase.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) should make clear that this situation is a priority. Part of the solution must be to better involve the community. Visits by law enforcement officials to schools to talk to young people about respecting Metro property and the safety of drivers and riders are a good first step. But the fact that a troubling number of youth in these neighborhoods find a thrill in hurling objects at vehicles speaks to conditions that more than law enforcement need to address.