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More police, fewer crimes on MetroLink so far in 2018

A MetroLink train
File Photo | St. Louis Public Radio
MetroLink is up and running following a crash in Pagedale Wednesday. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Serious crimes on the three-county MetroLink system have decreased in 2018, according to St. Louis and St. Louis County officials.

Violent crimes and thefts have decreased by 70 percent on MetroLink trains, stations and parking lots in St. Louis County compared to this time last year, according to St. Louis County Police Captain Scott Melies. And, he claims crime has decreased about “10 — 12 percent” in 2018 throughout the system, which stretches through St. Clair County, St. Louis and St. Louis County.

“The train is safe; we just need to get that message out to people,” Melies said. “Now, it’s still early in the year, but we believe the trends are going to hold, and we’re going to see a bigger improvement — from the already-existing improvements in 2017.”

In early 2017, about 40 police officers patrolled the MetroLink system. Now, that number is up to 69.

Melies said that enforcement of MetroLink policies and local laws is responsible for much of that decrease in crime. His unit has made 325 arrests, issued more than a 1,000 summons or citations and seized 32 guns so far this year, he said.

Looking for other ways to manage crime

Kim Cella, executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit, says a St. Louis Board of Alderman bill introduced Friday will improve rider safety. The bill would formalize how St. Clair County’s police officers can enforce laws on the MetroLink as far west as the Central West End.

“Part of what we’re doing is to help build confidence back in the system in St. Louis,” Cella said. We want to ensure that people feel like they’re safe and secure when they’re riding transit.”

Bill sponsor, Alderman Terry Kennedy, D-18th Ward, wrote in the bill that the agreement is needed because “violent crime and other criminal activity” near the MetroLink “has become a pervasive and immediate threat to the public safety.” 

Would turnstiles protect riders?

Some have suggested that barriers — like turnstiles — could keep crime off of platforms and trains. East-West Gateway Council of Governments, a planning agency for the bi-state region, will launch a study on Tuesday to assess station safety, said council executive director Jim Wild.

He said the audit will evaluate the physical layout of Metro stations and policies, then make recommendations. Wild said that barriers aren’t necessarily the answer, and that many modern transit systems do not use them.

“Rather than just jumping to the conclusion that we need barriers, we’re looking at the root cause of problems on the MetroLink system,” he said.

Follow Kae on Twitter: @kmaepetrin

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