The Metro Board's budget committee recommended yesterday that the size of the transit police force be increased to permit around-the-clock onsite patrols at the Minnesota Avenue Metro station in Northeast Washington.
If the proposal is approved by the full Metro board, Minnesota Avenue will become the first Metro station to be formally assigned full-time transit police protection. All 33 Metro stations presently are patrolled as part of "beats" that include trains and more than one station.
The recommendation to increase protection at Minnesota Avenue came after a series of meetings between members of the Minnesota Avenue community, representatives from the District of Columbia government and the Metro staff.
"Passengers have stated that they are afraid to use the station during late evening and early morning hours because of harassment and abuse," the D.C. government said in a formal request to the Metro board. "In addition, station equipment such as escalators and elevators have been vandalized so as to preclude normal operations."
Dennie W. Stewart, assistant chief of Metro's transit police, said yesterday that the Minnesota Avenue station has had no more incidents of reported crime than most stations, and that almost all incidents are minor. Nonetheless, he said, "it's the perception that's important."
During January and February, Stewart said, eight incidents were reported to Metro police from the Minnesota Avenue station. During the same period, however, Metro police made 17 arrests at the station, mostly for minor offenses. One arrest was for assault with intent to rape.
Under yesterday's recommendation, three full-time police officers would be added to the Metro force of 255, including about 40 building guards and administrative personnel. He cost would be $71,000 for the rest of the current fiscal year and all of fiscal 1980.
Metro General Manager Theodore C. Lutz, in a recent interview with The Washington Post, said that maintaining security on the Metro system was "a gnawing worry" for him and that he was concerned about the willingness of suburban jurisdictions to participate in financing a growing Metro security force.
Lutz recommended in his 1980 budget proposal an increase in the force to 290. The budget committee held the approved level to 255, despite the fact that the Metro system will grow by three stations when the Ballston line in Arlington County opens late this year.
Metro has signed agreements with the police departments of each of the jurisdictions it serves. Generally, jurisdictions it serves. Generally, Metro police are responsible for the trains and the station platforms and local police are responsible for the rest of the station area.
The D.C. police department has increased its patrols around the Minnesota Avenue station.
The Minnesota Avenue station runs parallel to the ConRail main freight line and Kenilworth Avenue NE. A tunnel under the Metro and ConRail tracks connects the Kenilworth Avenue side of the tracks with the Minnesota Avenue side of the station. That tunnel, part of the Metro station, is open 24 hours a day as a pedestrian thoroughfare.
The concern about security was exacerbated when it took Metro two months to fix a vital escalator at the station after it was vandalized. During the same period of time, two women were trapped in a malfunctioning elevator for two hours and a number of light bulbs were broken. Metro has increased maintenance and janitorial services around he station.
In another matter yesterday, Metro board member Francis B. Francois, from Prince George's County, asked for a reassessment of Metro's parking lot management at the New Carrollton station. Automated parking fee vendors frequently do not work, Francois said, thus frustrating patrons and costing Metro money.