General Manager Richard Sarles told the transit authority’s board of directors Thursday that he’s taking steps to deal with complaints of sexual harassment that arise in Metro’s bus and transit network.
The transit authority intends to adopt a program similar to one used by Boston’s subway system to encourage riders to report problems, officials said.
The Boston program has been recognized nationally. The system uses signs on trains and buses to encourage people to report harassment incidents and to communicate that the behavior is unacceptable, said Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman.
“We’re going to make customers aware that sexual harassment is not acceptable” Sarles told the board during a meeting. “We want people to know if they say something, it will be investigated.”
As of Thursday, Metro had already received five reports of sexual harassment. Two of them have been for inappropriate comments, one for indecent exposure and one for simple assault, officials said.
In simple assault and inappropriate comment cases, Stessel said the Metro Transit Police attempted to follow up but the victims have not responded. In one of the inappropriate comment cases, Metro Transit Police in plainclothes rode with the victim on the J2 bus route from Medical Center to Silver Spring for two days but they were unable to find the alleged offender on the route during that time.
Sarles said he’s also directed the Metro Transit Police department to include data on sexual harassment complaints in its crime reports to the boards.
Sarles said he plans to make employees “more aware” of listening to sexual harassment complaints from customers but noted “we don’t expect station managers to be police.” He said that while an incident may be reported to a station manager, it is the job of Metro Transit Police to investigate the situation.
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