D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser introduced legislation Tuesday that would give Metro Transit Police more power to arrest individuals accused of indecent exposure.
The legislation comes after a grass-roots group — Collective Action for Safe Spaces — raised concerns about sexual harassment and similar types of incidents not being dealt with by Metro staff and management.
Some members of the group testified before Bowser in February at a Committee on Government Operations hearing on Metro.
Bowser said Tuesday in a statement that she heard “very disturbing testimony on sexual harassment and assault” at that hearing and was concerned that Metro had not “tracked and investigated” allegations related to sexual harassment and indecent exposure properly.
Since the hearing, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles has taken some steps to improve the agency’s response by creating a Web site and e-mail address for riders to report incidents of harassment and assault.
Metro also plans to start public service announcements to remind customers to report incidents, and promises to better track and report these types of crimes.
Bowser’s legislation changes a D.C. law. Metro Transit Police “currently can’t arrest a person suspected of indecent exposure without first getting a warrant or actually seeing the crime occur,” according to a statement from Bowser.
“This often means a suspect isn’t arrested at all because resources are stretched too thin to follow up on those crimes, and the best opportunity has already passed immediately after the victim reports the crime.”
Bowser’s proposed legislation would amend D.C. law to “add indecent exposure to the list of crimes that police can make arrests for without a warrant as long as they have probable cause.”
She said Maryland and Virginia have similar laws, and her legislation — if passed — would “make the job of Metro Transit Police easier by providing consistency across the jurisdictions.”
Metro chief spokesman Dan Stessel said “we’re very supportive of this legislation.”
“It will make D.C. law consistent with other laws in the region and allow our officers to take action when victims report sexual crimes, such as indecent exposure.”
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This story has been updated.