Metro police adjust after weekend brawl

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Metro Transit Police will escort potentially disruptive groups of people through the rail system in the wake of a weekend brawl that left several people injured, a senior police official said Tuesday.

Deputy Chief Jeff Delinski of the Metro Transit Police said that officers thought that they had scattered a boisterous crowd of youths that descended on Gallery Place Station on Friday night but that the youths soon gathered again.

"We dispersed them from Gallery Place, but they met up again at L'Enfant Plaza. We didn't expect that to happen," Delinski said.

From now on, he said, "when we are dispersing groups of rowdy kids we will follow them to make sure they get to their destination safely. We will do a better job this weekend."

The fight led to the arrest of one adult and two juveniles and the hospitalization of four people Friday night.

Police said earlier that the incident began when people in the Gallery Place entertainment district began heading for the Metro station because of the 11 p.m. curfew for youths. Transit Police were watching the crowd when it arrived on the platform, but there was no behavior that warranted arrests, police said. Dozens of people boarded a Green Line train heading in the direction of Branch Avenue, and when the train arrived at L'Enfant Plaza about three minutes later, a big fight spilled onto the platform.

Delinski acknowledged that not all the people traveled from Gallery Place to L'Enfant Plaza, but he said a "significant number" did. He said Transit Police were hampered because they had only a handful of officers confronting dozens of people.

"It's a little challenging for a small group of police officers to disperse fifty to sixty young adults at the same time," he said. "The officers did a great job, and the fight was postponed a few minutes and started again at L'Enfant Plaza."

The nightlife district near Gallery Place draws crowds every weekend, particularly in summer, but Delinski said the fight could have migrated anywhere on the Metrorail system or outside it. He said a contributing factor is the use of cellphones, which allow youths inclined to brawling to arrange gatherings quickly.

Apart from Gallery Place, Metro stations that are near busy entertainment districts include Foggy Bottom, near Georgetown, and King Street in Alexandria. Police regularly patrol in and around those stations, Delinski said.

"The challenge now is to have our police officers follow through by escorting them where they need to go when they have the capacity to do that," he said.

If Metro customers encounter a security problem, they should call the Transit Police dispatch center, which operates 24 hours a day, Delinski said. The phone number is 202-962-2121.

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