By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 26, 2010; B10
"Move on down!" a Metro Transit Police officer instructed a boisterous group of youths crowding a rail platform as hundreds of Wilson High School students flowed into the Van Ness-UDC Station in Northwest Washington on their way home Wednesday afternoon.
"We try to disperse them along the platform so they don't get bunched up," said Sgt. Rick Turner of the Transit Police.
As school started in the Washington area this week, Metro police stepped up morning and afternoon patrols at seven key stations that are near schools or transfer stations. The goal is to prevent fights and "inappropriate behavior," said Deputy Police Chief Tracie Simmons, who is in charge of before- and after-school patrols. The patrols involve three to five officers at each location.
Although the patrols are not new this year, safety concerns are heightened after two large brawls this summer involving groups of youths at Union Station and L'Enfant Plaza.
The crowds of students often engage in loud talking, jostling, eating and drinking in the stations, Simmons said. "If you're playing in the system, it can be dangerous," she said.
On Wednesday, half a dozen officers patrolled the platform at Van Ness starting at 3 p.m. as school let out at Wilson, which has about 1,500 students.
"The majority of them catch public transit to get to and from school," said Capt. Leslie Campbell, commander of Metro Transit Police District 1. Campbell spotted some youths being disruptive on a southbound train that pulled into the station, and he immediately summoned an officer to board it.
"You have these kids banging on the doors as the train enters the station and running from car to car. That would disrupt the riding customers," Campbell said. He said such behavior, although usually not threatening, could be perceived that way by other riders.
Officer R. Spriggs boarded a Red Line train at Van Ness and kept an eye on the students, who were mostly quiet. "It makes me feel safer," said Kriterius Jamison, 14, a freshman at Wilson. "I never do anything." He added that he had seen officers break up a fight on the platform.
His classmate Jvonne Greene, 14, nodded. "It's not necessary for us, but you know [that in] places like Chinatown, its necessary," he said.