Spike in Youth Crime on Metro


Teens on the Green line.

Teens + Metro = Trouble? Many people assume that “equation” is true, and this story, One-Quarter Of Those Arrested On Metro Are Younger Than 20, from WAMU’s Kavitha Cardoza substantiates the link between young transit users and crime.

Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn says there’s been a spike in crime committed by youth on Metrorail and Metrobuses; last year they made up a little more than 500 of the approximately 2,000 arrests.

And Taborn says many of the 90 assaults on bus operators involved youth.

When Taborn says “assault” he means that metrobus drivers have been on the receiving end of punches, flung objects or saliva. Taborn also confirms that the trend of recording altercations and uploading them to sites like YouTube inspires copycat crimes.

Here’s something I was unaware of, which explains a lot– as in, why a lot of students are using public transportation:

Taborn says over the past five years, more students attend schools that aren’t in their neighborhood, whether it’s to attend charter schools or because their neighborhood school has closed down. And that increases the opportunities for students to meet others from rival schools and crews.

Twenty thousand students use the Metro system every day.

I’ve only witnessed one incident where rowdy teens were confronted by a Metro employee, but it was memorable.

Guardian Angel, Woman Assaulted in Racially-Motivated Metro Fight

Twitpic: @dcguardianangel

Guardian Angels handcuffing five assailants who attacked one of their members on an Anacostia-bound train, Saturday night.

Earlier today, I storified tweets about the Guardian Angels voluntarily patrolling D.C.’s Metro system. This weekend, one Angel on an Anacostia-bound train tried to break up a fight between a black youth and a white woman; that man was violently assaulted by five people (including the youth from the original altercation) for trying to intervene. Other nearby Angels rushed to the train and detained all five assailants until police could arrive and arrest them. That’s the bare outline of what went down. But there’s more:

Alex Kaufer, an Angel in training, stepped in when a black male youth allegedly assaulted a white woman on a train as it pulled into the Anacostia Station on the Green Line about 11 p.m. Saturday. The youth and his friends apparently were making racial comments to the woman and her friend.

“The youths were harassing the girls. They were making fun of them because they were white and because of the way they were dressed,” John Ayala, East Coast director of the Guardian Angels, tells WTOP. “The girl got up and told the youths, ‘We are not afraid of you.’”

That’s when the fight started…

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Cut Metro Hours? Lose $50 Million from D.C.


Save $3 to 5 million by cutting service? Lose $7 million in revenue. Or $50 million in matching funds from D.C.

Metro’s proposal to cut late-night service on Fridays and Saturdays in order to save money and create more opportunities for maintenance may hit a financial roadblock (via WTOP):

A Metro source tells WTOP city officials are less inclined to kick in their share of dedicated funding if they know they are going to lose millions in revenue from the rollback of late night weekend hours.

If D.C. were to hold back its share of dedicated funding, it could set off a troubling chain reaction. The move would essentially break an agreement with the federal government, which sends $150 million in funds per year to Metro. That money is to be matched year after year by D.C., Maryland and Virginia — all putting in $50 million each.

We’ve already covered how this issue doesn’t just inconvenience privileged drunk people who’ve been out partying– it also means pain for members of the working class who depend on Metro to get home from their jobs at odd hours. Another issue? How much money will be saved by the service cuts vs. how much could be lost:
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Three Surprising Facts About Metro Crime

Crime in the Metro system hit a 5-year high in 2010, according to a WMATA report released today. That’s the banner finding among many grim facts in the report, which you can read in its PowerPoint-y entirety here. Here are some of the other surprises:

A third of the 2,012 arrests in 2010 involved youths.

I’m not sure whether I expected this figure to be higher or lower, but it was definitely interesting. Many of our discussions of Metro crime over the past several months have been about youth on the Metro, such as today’s story embedded at right from MyFoxDC. Last summer’s brawl at Gallery Place sparked several comment threads about race and crime on various sites online, such as DCist. What do you think? Did you find this figure surprising?

4 of 7 sexual offenses “allegedly involved assaults on disabled customers by MetroAccess drivers.”

This statistic, from the WaPo story about the report, paints a very disturbing picture. An account from a WaPo story last April provides some more context:

Both contract drivers [charged with sexual assaults against customers] were hired after passing a background check, said Nikki Frenney, vice president of public affairs for MV Transportation, which oversees the 1,500 drivers in the MetroAccess system for Metro. MetroAccess provides about 7,700 trips a day for people with disabilities who are unable to use regular bus and rail service.

A homicide appears to be missing from the data.

MyFoxDC noted this in their story on the report. Indeed, the WMATA report claims no homicides occurred in the Metro system in 2010, but what happened to the homicide at the Congress Heights Metro Station in May? MyFoxDC asked Councilmember Tommy Wells, who didn’t have an answer for why the homicide might be omitted. The station wasn’t able to get a comment from Metro officials.

Metro Really DOES Need Maintenance, ASAP

Flickr: James Calder

Riders wait at Foggy Bottom Metro

Some serious, scary trouble at Foggy Bottom this morning (via Unsuck DC Metro):

After unloading from a train, people were exiting the gates, and a Metro employee was telling everyone leaving the station to take the left hand escalator…So everyone starts trudging up the left, until…

The bottom two or three steps of the escalator literally collapsed! They fell through leaving a gaping hole at the bottom of the stairs. Two or three people fell in. I would say it was about a three foot drop into jagged steel from the overturned stairs, not to mention whatever else is underneath the escalator. The people managed to pull themselves out and didn’t look seriously injured, but one woman was pretty shaken up.

Metro’s response was also less than encouraging. When the stairs first fell through, people started yelling, and one employee (the same one who had told us to take the left hand escalator in the first place) began walking toward the commotion. But then he stopped, turned around, and ran back yelling for someone else to do something.

Miss Metro? Hire a Taxi or Sleep on the Street.

Flickr: Chris Dag

Fisheye view of the red line.

Last week, I posted about the debate surrounding Metro’s proposal to close earlier on the weekends for maintenance and monetary reasons– “Metro: It’s not just for drunks.“. This weekend, the Washington Post dispatched four reporters to spend “the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings riding the trains to gauge reaction.” Most of the piece focused on party people, but one anecdote stood out:

After midnight, Metro is the domain of the young and intoxicated. In this atmosphere, it’s easy to pick out the night commuters, who stand out of the way like hungover club kids might in the morning rush.

On the Green Line, Aloh Che, 63, quietly reads a newspaper. His eyes look tired. A patch on his jacket explains why he is out at 1 a.m.: security. His job often ends at midnight.

“Once you miss the bus, then you miss the train, then your only alternative is hiring a taxi or sleeping on the street,” he says. He’s done that – slept on the street until Metro started up again. “Three or four times,” he says.

Che, a native of Cameroon, works in Bethesda and has worked two shifts this day. By the time he gets home to New Carrollton, the buses will have stopped running, so he will pay a taxi driver $10 to take him the rest of the way.

Metro: It’s not just for drunks.

Flickr: Manuel Arrington

A late-night reveler puts her feet up.

“WMATA Board ponders cutting late-night service”, the Greater Greater Washington headline reads. Cue the comment storm from people who are outraged that late-night revelers won’t have a safe way to get home, thus increasing the possibility of those people driving around drunk, killing us and each other. But, wait! There’s more!

NOW cue the knee-jerk fury of those who are outraged that the first group is pandering to drunks. “Why should we enable hard-partying? It’s in no one’s interests! Metro is for commuting to work, not bars!”, they preach. So what’s a transit agency to do? Metro needs to save money and perform maintenance on the creaking, wheezing system that we all complain about; if we want WMATA to fix things, it’s only fair that we give them enough time to address the mile-long list of issues we collectively maintain via Twitter.

All of that is true. So is this: between the sputtering and arguing online, the plight of the other people who rely on Metro is ignored.

Yesterday, when I took my puppy out to turn our street into a latrine, I noticed that Marisol was still sitting in our lobby. That was odd; she usually works the afternoon shift, from 3-11pm. It was midnight.

“Is everything okay?”, I asked.

She smiled, sweetly. “Yeah…I had to stay a little bit late and I missed the last train home.”

I was alarmed. “Are you okay? What about your baby?”
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al-Qaeda on the Red Line


Lots of bags to search here.

DCist talked to the new CEO and General Manager of Metro, Richard Sarles. While escalators and rude personnel were discussed, the part that stood out to me had to do with terrorism:

A large amount of the discussion revolved around bag searches, and Sarles’ affinity for the program…

It’s obvious that Sarles has a great amount of passion for the program, which many have criticized as little but security theater. Sarles was quick to defend with rhetoric. “We are the symbol here of a great country,” he added. “We call ourselves America’s subway. We are something that people would like to attack. Can you thwart every attack? Absolutely not….[But] all these things try to thwart or discourage terrorists from attacking here. This is a highly visible target, and to think it’s not, is to put your head in the sand.”

He continued: “Terrorists have a specific plan how they’re going to do it, and if you make it unpredictable, maybe there’s something else they can plan,” said Sarles, diving deeper. “The unfortunate thing is someone sets a bomb off on a subway train, it’s not the same as someone getting punched in the face, an assault. A terrorist could walk up here today and kill somebody, but that’s not making a statement — they bombed the World Trade Center because it was a symbol of capitalism, and we’re a symbol of freedom.”

I don’t know if Metro is a target because it’s a symbol of freedom, but it may be a target because attacking it would be hugely disruptive to this area. I guess those popular bag searches are here to stay.

Spare the Rod, Spoil that Kid from Your Block


The kid who was very interested in Metro's future train configurations.

Yesterday, before my 88-minute Metro ride turned in to both a near-brawl at Dupont and an almost-riot at Metro Center, I witnessed something so surprising, I had to share it. I’ve worked in customer service and retail, in soul-crushing jobs which require interacting with the general public, so I’m well aware of how people are far more likely to complain about a problem than to compliment great work; because of this, I try and do the latter as often as possible. I remember how wonderful it felt to hear kind words. I can’t be the only one who appreciates being appreciated.

Once we left Tenleytown, I found a seat near the doors and sat down with a great sense of relief. I had three bags with me and the two times I attempted to hail a cab, all I had accomplished was getting pelted, first with hail, then with snow. It was 4:30, and while I knew that the storm was worsening and trains would be crowded, I hoped the ride wouldn’t be too crazy. Two minutes after making that naive wish, a boisterous, incorrigible group of boys rushed inside the train.

They were loud, brash and within moments, they had sucked all the air out of the car. I noticed adults of all hues and classes eying them warily as they barreled past, taking the first free seats they found. The moment they sat down, they unpacked several bags from McDonald’s and proceeded to vacuum fries and McNuggets in that powerful, awe-inspiring way that only teen-aged boys are capable of. As the train lurched, so did their food and dipping sauces. That was bad enough, but the eye roll-inducing conversation they were shouting was worse. It was so loud, it even eclipsed the voices of the two inconsiderate pigs who were shouting “What? I can’t hear you! I’m on a train!” in to their cell phones.
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