Officials: MetroLink security a top priority after recent shootings; turnstiles likely
The leaders of St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County say they are working with law enforcement to make it safer to ride MetroLink.
After meeting privately for more than an hour Wednesday, St. Louis Mayor-elect Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said they have a framework to improve security along the light-rail line that connects the three counties.
The announcement comes after two fatal shootings on MetroLink last month. At a news conference after the closed door meeting, officials offered few details other than to say physical barriers, such as turnstiles, were needed.
“This is a draft plan,” Krewson said. “What this says today is that we all think this is an urgent situation.”
Kern said passengers, especially those coming to Missouri from Illinois, will see "more uniformed sworn officers either on the platform or on the trains, in eyesight and accessible to passengers so they feel comfortable riding these trains.”
Stenger said the St. Louis County Police Department, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will work together to make sure MetroLink is safe, then turned the microphone over to St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar.
“I really feel like law enforcement needs to take the (lead) role on this,” Belmar said after noting that private security would be a factor. “We need barrel turnstiles. We need to secure these platforms.”
He added: “I don’t know if we have enough policemen to make sure that somebody is there all the time. And I think those kinds of adjustments to Metro for the platform security is going to help. There’s much more to this plan, but I would not be comfortable discussing it in this forum without having further conversations with Bi-State President Mr. John Nations."
Nations, who is the head of St. Louis’ public transit agency, was not invited to the meeting. But he said he’s glad the region’s leaders are getting together to discuss the issue.
Nations agreed that adding physical barriers, such as turnstiles, would be a good idea but noted that it's expensive and takes time to install.
“I think No. 1 is we need to have more law enforcement people on the system, on every train and on every platform. I think that’s the quickest thing that could be done in order to improve the safety and the perception of safety on the system,” Nations said.
Nations also wants law enforcement on MetroLink to have a unified command across St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County.
“No single jurisdiction has really complete control of it (right now),” Nations said. “People are kind of surprised to hear that we as the transit operator do not control security on our system. And yet it is really our No. 1 priority.”
Stenger said creating a unified command for MetroLink is on the table as part of the new plan. Asked who would be in charge, Stenger said that would be worked out in conjunction with Nations.
Krewson, Stenger and Kern plan to meet with Nations to discuss implementing the plan after Krewson takes office next week.
Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.