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Two days after a shooting on a Green Line train at the Anacostia station left one man wounded and put many riders on edge, Metro said on Thursday it would add 17 patrol officers to buses, rail cars, and platforms “based on crime trends.”
The announcement came from Metro Transit Police Department Chief Ron Pavlik at the transit agency’s bi-weekly board meeting. Pavlik recapped the circumstances of Tuesday’s shooting before outlining a series of steps MTPD plans to take so riders and employees might feel safer.
First, Metro has hired an outside contractor to provide armed guards who will oversee security at the Revenue Collection Facility in Alexandria and protect technicians who service fare machines, a function usually performed by MTPD officers. Metro awarded the contract to Bradley Technologies Inc. on Nov. 16 for roughly $1.3 million, solicitation documents show. Pavlik said the firm’s extra manpower will allow MTPD to grow the size of its Patrol Operations Bureau by more than five percent.
“Foot officers are the bread and butter of” MTPD’s work, he told reporters today. “Any extra officers are an addition.”
Pavlik declined to answer a question on specific deployment numbers, but said the department has 479 sworn officers. On Tuesday, he added, “multiple officers” were present at the Anacostia station, allowing them to respond quickly and interview witnesses to identify the pair of suspects now being held until March 6. The Metropolitan Police Department assisted in finding the 16- and 19-year-old defendants, who have been charged as adults with assault with intent to kill. Pavlik described the incident as “a robbery gone bad,” but acknowledged that other armed robberies happen on Metro.
Crime in the transit system is up “slightly” this quarter as compared to the same period in 2015, the chief explained. He added that MTPD’s available data, however, doesn’t support the claim that more people are bringing guns onto Metro.
Deterrence “starts with uniformed officers,” Pavlik said, later adding that “perception is one of our biggest challenges.”
On top of hiring the private security firm, Metro says it will use “power hour” deployments so that day- and night-shift officers overlap at specific times and places. This will “nearly double” the presence of officers on duty, according to the transit agency. MTPD also plans to reassign “limited duty” personnel in plainclothes or visible vests to particular spots.
On the rail- and bus-operations side of the agency, Acting Chief Safety Officer Louis Brown told board members that Metro is working towards completing scores of corrective safety actions ordered by the Federal Transit Administration. He cautioned that the FTA’s “estimated completion dates” for these actions are not strict “deadlines,” in reply to which ex-board Chair Mortimer Downey said he understood the federal government’s expressed public pressure on Metro.
Brown also discussed a new rule requiring assistant superintendents to approve and record “rare” reverse motions of trains, a move that occurred in early February near the Smithsonian station and dozens of other times since 2012. The agency’s general manager, Paul Wiedefeld, said he wasn’t as focused on “the paper trail” the rule will create but rather on the overall safety of Metro. Brown said the rule would boost oversight and help with audits and reviews.
“We’re [taking] many steps on many fronts,” Brown added. He also said Metro would launch a website during the week of March 6 to keep the public informed of the agency’s progress on implementing the FTA’s mandated corrective plan.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery