Michele Dyson's Aug. 21 Close to Home column, "Security and Safety: Metro's Systematic Shortfalls," criticized an organization that is recognized as a safety and security leader in the U.S. transit industry. Ms. Dyson based her attack on a single incident that had been reported on weeks earlier -- an incident that we acknowledged at the time should have been handled better.
But put that incident in context. Since the July bombings in the London subway system, the Metro Transit Police Department has responded to 226 calls about suspicious packages or people -- double the number from the same time a year ago. In addition, Metrorail staff have responded to 40 incidents of suspicious people, items or unattended packages.
Ms. Dyson also said, without evidence, that Metro is lacking in employee training and public awareness. All Metro employees are trained repeatedly in terrorism awareness, detection and response. Since the Madrid bombings of March 2004 and the London attacks, we have communicated extensively to the public, urging them to be vigilant. Our "Excuse Me, Is That Your Bag?" and "See It? Say It!" awareness campaigns have been recognized internationally. Metro's senior managers distributed the "See It? Say It!" piece to customers in Metrorail stations on the afternoon of July 7, the day of the first London bombings.
Ms. Dyson also said, "When . . . customers contacted the security office during normal business hours to report a transgression, they found the office closed." Surely she did not mean the Metro Transit Police Department, which never closes. Metro does not have a security office, because its 400-officer police force handles security for the transit system, with assistance from police in the jurisdictions in which it operates.
We value our partnership with customers, and we will continue to work to keep our transit system as safe as an open system can be.
POLLY L. HANSON
Metro Transit Police Department