Metro Transit Crime Rates Rise, Lawmakers Look for Solution

September 25, 2018 06:18 PM

Metro Transit has a special sex crimes unit, a homeless response team and more than 200 cameras placed throughout the seven county system.  Still, lawmakers say it's not enough to combat the rising crime rates on the trains and buses.

The Metro Transit Police Department chief said when comparing the number of riders to the populations of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the crime rates are far lower on the trains than in the cities.


"We're not going to be able to be on every bus," said Chief John Harrington at a hearing with lawmakers Tuesday afternoon.

Violent crime statistics from metro transit have trended up in recent years.

That includes physical and sexual assaults.The number of incidents reported rose from 599 incidents in 2016 to 843 incidents in 2017.

"Our response to this is to try to be as visible as possible," Harrington said. "And given our fiscal limitation of the staff, then the question is 'How do we pick our spots?'" 

He explained they track the spots with the highest crime rates, like the Franklin Avenue stop on the Blue Line in Minneapolis.

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Metro Transit headquarters regularly checks cameras when officers can't be there.

That's how Metro Transit police were able to catch and arrest a suspect in an assault in April.

Still, lawmakers want more done to stop the crimes before they happen.

"I think we all need to be honest with what's going on in our communities," said Representative Paul Torkelson, who chairs the committee.

"The issue is we could not staff that 24/7, 365 days a year," Harrington said. "It's simply not within the fiscal constraints from where we're operating from."

The chief blames the crime numbers on the budgetary numbers he's got to work with, saying with a staff of 115 officers, he only has 12 to 15 people per shift tracking crime on the tracks.

The chief told lawmakers on any given night, there are about 200 people who say they live on the trains and buses, making Metro Transit the second largest homeless shelter in the Twin Cities.

He's launched a homeless response team to find the homeless riders better resources as that can contribute to rising crime rates.

Felony theft remains the biggest crime by far on metro transit rides.


Katherine Johnson

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