D.C. to Fund Cameras at High-Crime Metro Spots
Friday, July 11, 2008
Metro Transit Police plan to install outdoor security cameras at 10 high-crime Metrorail stations in the District over the next six months, officials said yesterday. The District is providing $225,000 for the cameras.
Police have recommended that an additional 20 suburban Metro stations be outfitted with exterior cameras, but Maryland and Virginia would have to provide the funds for cameras in their jurisdictions, Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn told Metro board directors yesterday.
Of the system's 86 stations, those with the most crime are at or near the end of their lines in Prince George's and Fairfax counties, which have parking lots and high numbers of auto thefts. At New Carrollton, for instance, 100 serious crimes were reported in 2007, including 19 auto thefts and 51 larcenies. At Franconia-Springfield, the 86 serious crimes in 2007 included 27 auto thefts and 43 larcenies.
In the District, the Anacostia Station had the most crime last year, including 32 robberies, most committed by groups of juveniles after school, officials have said.
District stations recommended for cameras paid for by the $225,000 include Rhode Island Avenue, with 31 serious crimes reported in 2007; Congress Heights, with 28 serious crimes in 2007; and Deanwood, which had 25 serious crimes in 2007. Metro funds will be used to install several cameras at Anacostia.
The cameras are being installed in response to a request by Metro board member Jim Graham, a D.C. Council member. His district, Ward 1, includes the Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue neighborhoods, where cameras are to be installed at the Columbia Heights (nine serious crimes in 2007) and Georgia Avenue (seven) stations.
Each camera costs about $12,000, including labor and installation, police officials said. Some of the District stations will have multiple exterior cameras. Metro has an extensive network of more than 1,000 cameras inside Metrorail stations and on Metrobuses. Transit police say the additional external surveillance cameras, which would be visible to the public, could help deter crime and aid police with criminal investigations.
As part of a pilot program, Metro police installed an exterior camera at the west entrance of the U Street Metro station in November 2006. Between January 2006 and January 2007, there were 80 crimes reported at the station, of which 76 were for minor offenses, including urinating in public and graffiti. Between January 2007 and January 2008, total crimes reported fell to 53, most of them minor offenses, officials said.
In separate action, a Metro board committee agreed that Metro should raise its fees for providing charter bus service and revise its policy for private bus companies that want to use Metro bus bays.
The changes follow new federal regulations that prevent transit agencies from providing chartered buses if private companies are available for the service. That means Metro will no longer provide shuttle bus service for Washington Redskins games, school field trips and, beginning next year, Wolf Trap performances, officials have said. The Federal Transit Administration has granted a waiver to allow Metro to provide shuttle bus service for Wolf Trap this season.
The changes could mean higher costs for riders if higher fees by chartered bus companies are passed on to shuttle bus users. Last year, Metro chartered more than 1,300 buses for Redskins fans for trips between FedEx Field and the Morgan Boulevard Metro station. The team charged fans $5 for the round-trip fare.