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The Metro transit system is one of D.C.’s most popular venues for public gropers. Whether it’s the guy pushing his erection into your back on a train or the man reaching out to grab your genitals at a bus stop, these transit-based assailants have at least one thing in common—-they’ll almost certainly be assaulting again somewhere down the road. Eager to help stop the Metro system’s most egregious offenders? Last week, I spoke with Captain Kevin Gaddis of the Metro Transit Police about how victims can report their Metro-based sexual assaults.
* Metro sexual assaults are underreported. In 2009, Metro police received 47 sexual assault cases—-“anything from unwanted touching to groping to indecent exposure,” Gaddis says. (To date, 13 of these cases have been closed). To Gaddis, the number is “miniscule.” “We have a million people riding Metro every day,” Gaddis says. “Forty-seven cases a year is a very small number.” But the true rate of sexual assaults on Metro is impossible to tell: “I honestly don’t know how often it really happens, but I know it happens far more than it’s reported,” Gaddis says.
* Report ASAP. If you witness or experience a sexual assault on a train, why not alert police while the assailant is still stuck in transit? Call Metro Transit Police immediately—-either from your cell phone, at (202) 962-2121, or from one of the call boxes at the end of the car (just pick up the receiver and ask the operator to connect you to Metro Transit Police).
In Maryland, Virginia, or D.C., Metro Transit Police will deal with incidents in Metro cars, platforms, parking lots, and garages. With a little bit of information—-a description of the suspect, the line, and the train number—-an officer may be able to reach you immediately. “We have a lot of officers out there on foot,” says Gaddis. “The best thing we can try to do is intercept the incident at the next stop or a couple stops down.”
* Or: Report later! “If the suspect is already gone by the time the victim reaches us, the victim can still identify the person and allow us to get an arrest warrant later on,” says Gaddis. Even victims who never see their assailants—-or can’t provide a complete description to police—-are encouraged to report their assaults.
“Some of these people—-particularly the indecent exposure suspects—-are repeat offenders,” says Gaddis. Even reporting the time, place, and nature of an assault can help police figure out assault patterns. “The ones that do it, it’s probably not the first time they’ve done it, nor will it be the last time. In 2009, it’s unlikely that our 47 cases involved 47 different assailants . . . We know that a lot of these repeat offenders always ride on the same line. There’s usually some type of pattern. Every little bit of information helps us.”
Illustration by Brooke Hatfield