Metro crime rate tops other transit systems

Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro had a higher crime rate than five other major transit agencies in 2011, even as the number of crimes dropped locally by 16 percent.

The agency reported 1,898 serious crimes last year, with the vast majority of them being thefts of some kind. That's a drop from the six-year high logged in 2010 when Metro reported 2,270 cases, including robberies, car thefts and assaults.

The statistics translate to a systemwide rate of 5.52 serious crimes per million riders, according to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. Metro has boasted about its crime rate repeatedly, saying it's far below the rates of the communities surrounding Metro.

Still, Metro's crime rate is higher than all other transit agencies that provided statistics to The Washington Examiner -- New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta and Philadelphia -- ranging from a low of New York City subway system's rate of 1.55 crimes per million trips to Philadelphia's SEPTA rate of 4.50.

Metro riders were twice as likely to be the victim of a crime than those on Los Angeles' transit system.

Metro crime statistics
Part I crime20102011
Aggravated assault136108
Motor vehicle theft12983
Attempted auto theft6543
________________________ Arrests2,0081,922
Calls for service59,71163,712
Fare evasion4,1014,506
Crime rates on major systems
Per million rides
Metro: 5.52
Philadelphia's SEPTA*: 4.50
Atlanta's MARTA: 3.20
Boston's MBTA: 2.98
Los Angeles' MTA: 2.55
New York City's MTA**: 1.55
*SEPTA numbers are for its two subway lines, the only part of the network that the agency polices itself, said SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams.
** NYC's MTA numbers do not include arson, auto theft or smaller scale thefts sometimes called petty larceny, per New York Police Department.
Source: Examiner analysis of numbers provided by transit agencies and/or their police departments.

And even in raw numbers, more Metro riders were robbed in 2011 than on New York City's entire system, with 871 cases reported locally compared with the 787 cases the New York Police Department investigated, although New York's vast transit system provides nearly five times more trips.

The transit agencies are all dealing with similar challenges, especially the proliferation of handheld electronic devices that attract thieves. Systems nationwide have battled rising robberies of the devices, and Metro blamed its 2010 crime surge on the devices' appeal.

But the agencies also have key differences. New York's system does not have vast commuter parking lots like Metro does, for example, eliminating car break-ins or outright car theft from its crime trends.

Stessel said it's nearly impossible to draw comparisons without knowing how each agency reports crime or how it records how many riders it has. "Just as each city is different, so too is each transit system and trends relative to crime," he added.

Subway systems are not required to report crime statistics to any single entity, nor do all agencies track the numbers themselves if local police agencies protect the system.

A spokesman for Dallas' DART system, for example, said the agency doesn't have statistics for the final months of 2011 because its police have been busy with a spate of platform shootings. The system has had three homicides since November, far more than the one case Metro had in the entire year.

Despite the comparisons, Metro's 2011 crime statistics are good news for the transit agency, even as a 14-year-old was slashed by another teen just Sunday evening. The number of crimes returned to 2008 levels, before the surge in thefts of electronic devices.

Still, once fluctuations in ridership are taken into account, the crime rate on the rail system is twice what it was in 2008, while the rates for parking lots and bus service have dropped by more than a third.

Metro credits the use of a crime-statistic tracking program similar to that pioneered by the New York Police Department to allocate crime fighting resources where needed. Last year was the first full year the agency used it. "We are fighting crime in innovative ways," Stessel said.

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