St. Louis law agencies working to improve MetroLink safety
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Nine months after issuing a memorandum of understanding aimed at improving security on St. Louis’ MetroLink transit system, law enforcement agencies say some goals have been met but more resources and officers are still needed.
St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County police agencies have increased enforcement on MetroLink and are cooperating more after several violent incidents on the light-rail system last year. But the agencies’ have taken different approaches to the problem, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .
The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department now has nine officers, rather than three, working on the MetroLink. Since May, the department, with extra funding from the county’s transit district, has deployed a deputy on every train from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The officers give passengers a sense of security and deter potential crimes, said Sheriff Richard Watson, who added overall incidents reported in his county dropped 7 percent last year.
St. Louis County police now have 44 officers assigned to their MetroLink unit, double the number since 2016. The officers are deployed based on the level of crime and call data, rather than having an officer on every train, Chief Jon Belmar said.
“When you’re on the cars (at all times), you’re not anywhere else except on the cars,” he said. “We wanted to be able to stay agile enough to respond to calls on the perimeter on the line.”
Belmar said overall serious crime, which includes larceny, robbery and sex offenses, on the MetroLink dropped 14.6 percent last year, to 41 incidents. Lesser crimes, such as weapons and drug violations, increased by 5.3 percent to 456.
But the St. Louis County MetroLink unit’s reputation was tarnished when 11 officers were issued written reprimands between December 2015 and last July. Some incidents including officers loitering in Metro security offices and others for covering security cameras in the offices.
Lt. John Blaskiewicz, who leads MetroLink enforcement for St. Louis city police, said his unit needs more officers.
“I’m working with six officers, a sergeant and myself, so that’s eight,” he said. “The county has 44. Where would you expect the line to be safer?”
Incidents of serious crime on MetroLink in the city doubled last year, to 126 from 63 in 2016. Less serious crime dropped by 14.9 percent, to 137 incidents from 161.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com