Major crime on Metro’s rail and bus network decreased for the third quarter, which ended in September, because Metro Transit Police used a computerized system to track crimes, did more strategic patrolling and launched more public awareness campaigns, transit officials said.
“Across almost every category, crime is going down year over year,” said Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman. “That’s certainly good news. The numbers are headed in the right direction.”
However, major crimes for the third quarter — which include aggravated assaults, burglaries, larcenies, robberies, and motor vehicle thefts and theft attempts — are up when compared with 2007, climbing from 339 then to 495 this year.
According to Metro’s statistics, 4.75 crimes occurred per million riders in the third quarter, compared with 6.02 in the third quarter of 2010. In Metro parking lots, crime dropped to 3.07 per million riders from 4.07 million. On Metrobuses, crime fell to .69 incidents per million riders, compared with 1.01 per million in the third quarter of 2010.
Transit Police Chief Michael C. Taborn plans to present the statistics at Thursday’s Metro board meeting.
Stessel credited Metrostat, a computerized system that enables transit police to determine crime trends and deploy resources accordingly, for much of the decline.
“We’re tracking trends in real time to days, weeks and times that crimes are occurring and sending officers out to address it,” he said. “That’s been very effective.”
Metro also has given area police jurisdictions SmarTrip cards so that officers can help patrol parking garages. In a public awareness effort, Metro has sent letters to vehicle owners when officers have found valuables in visible areas of parked cars.
For the quarter, larceny from vehicles was down to 94 incidents from 100. Bicycle thefts dropped to 100 from 124, and auto thefts and attempts fell to 38 from 59.
Armed robberies fell from 11 to four, and pickpocketing dropped to 15 incidents from 19. The number of robberies in which customers did not see a weapon fell to 73 from 97. There were 25 aggravated assaults for the quarter, down from 43 for the same period last year.
Snatchings, mostly of electronic items, declined to 45 incidents, compared with 57. Those thefts, which officials have described as a “crime of opportunity,” had been on the increase.
However, Stessel said, Metro has tried to heighten public awareness. “We’re doing a whole education effort to remind customers to be aware of their surroundings,” he said.
Deputy Police Chief Jeff Delinski said assaults against bus operators were also down. There were 44 from January to September of this year, compared with 69 during the same period last year.
Jackie Jeter, president of Local 689, Metro’s union that has about 10,000 members, said she “doesn’t believe those numbers.”
“I think they miss things we might include.” She said she was unsure whether the statistics included when bus drivers are hit on or spit upon. “Maybe antagonism might be down, but assaults might be a bit more violent.”
In several incidents this year, operators were hospitalized. One involved a woman aboard a U8 bus at the Capitol Heights station who argued with a bus operator after she was asked to fold a stroller. The woman returned the next day and beat up the driver.
Metro officials attributed the drop in part to an operation known as “High Intensity Targeted Enforcement” (HITE). Officers, in uniform and plainclothes, ride buses, mostly in areas with higher crime rates, as a deterrent.
The agency said it is developing guidelines for operators on how to deal with shootings on and around buses after an incident in the current quarter in which a Metrobus passenger was fatally shot in the face. Metro is also installing about 200 clear shields that could protect bus operators from assaults.
The rail stations that had the highest number of major crimes for the quarter were College Park, with 26; Southern Avenue, with 21; Deanwood, with 20; Suitland, with 18; and Greenbelt, with 16.
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