Metro models program off Boston T

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

Metro's new public awareness campaign is modeled off Boston's T system award-winning program that began under similar circumstances.

A story in a local newspaper about groping on the region's subway system highlighted the problem - and the lack of attention that was given it by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

So advocates at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center pushed for a response from the authority and it agreed to start an education campaign targeting both the victims and the perpetrators. Both sides now deem it a success.

In the first 18 months after Boston's program began in 2008, transit police there reported a 32 percent increase in reports and a 40 percent increase in arrests for indecent assault and battery.

"We always felt and we still feel it's an underreported crime," MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan said.

Gina Scaramella, executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, said the campaign provided gender-neutral messages to let riders know anyone could be a victim and encouraged other riders not to stand by and let such acts happen.

The program also encourages riders to take pictures of those committing the acts, something local police were initially nervous about. But MacMillan said it's been successful. The agency shares photos with the local media to find the suspects and has made arrests.

Now, Scaramella said, the agency is due to run another campaign.

The MBTA agreed to license its campaign to Metro for free. Any costs will come from printing materials, according to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. - Kytja Weir

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