Robberies in Metro System Increasing, on Track to Jump 24 Percent by Year's End

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Robberies in the Metro transit system are increasing and are on track to jump 24 percent by the end of the year if the current pace continues, according to Transit Police statistics.

Although overall crime in the Metro system is relatively low, robberies have been on the rise for the past few years, reflecting spikes elsewhere in the region, Metro officials have said. Metro's ridership has been growing, and large numbers of riders carry cellphones, portable music players and other electronic devices, which are easy to steal and easy to sell, they said.

Metro reported 240 robberies for the four months ending April 30, compared with 187 robberies for the same period last year. By comparison, there were 581 robberies reported for all of 2008. In 2008, the number of robberies reported was about 30 percent more than the 445 robberies reported for 2007, according to statistics.

Officials said the latest spike began in late spring. In response, Transit Police reactivated a special plainclothes robbery detail, according to Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato. The unit has targeted specific locations for crime and has made 27 arrests since May, she said.

In a statement, Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn called the robberies "crimes of opportunity." Thieves are spotting riders who are distracted by listening to music, checking their e-mail or talking on cellphones. "They're snatching iPods, cellphones and other small electronics right out of the hands of unassuming riders," he said.

Transit police say riders should keep electronics tucked away in a pocket or purse to decrease the chance of becoming a victim.

In Prince George's County, several police agencies, including Metro Transit Police, began high-visibility patrols in April using uniformed officers at stations, on trains and in surrounding parking lots and parks, Asato said.

The station with the highest number of serious non-vehicle crimes is Gallery Place, a major transfer point in downtown Washington for the Red, Yellow and Green lines. There were 20 such crimes reported through April 30. The next highest was Anacostia, which had 15 serious crimes reported for the same period, followed by L'Enfant Plaza, where there were 12.

At stations in surrounding jurisdictions, the biggest problems occur in the parking lots. In Prince George's, there were 36 vehicle crimes reported at the Southern Avenue station through April 30, 35 at New Carrollton and 22 at Suitland. In Virginia, there were 10 vehicle crimes reported at the Huntington Station during the same period, four at West Falls Church and two at Vienna.

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