WARNING: The video above contains disturbing images, including drug use.
MINNEAPOLIS – Metro Transit isat several stations to address growing safety concerns
What's happening on their trains is making some people reluctant to buy a ticket. WCCO wanted to ride the light rail ourselves to find out what it's really like. It only took a few hours one afternoon to see a good amount of dangerous activity.
We encountered what appeared to be open drug use, as well as conversations and exchanges that looked like drug deals.
On the platforms, too, was more apparent drug use, often hidden under jackets or blankets. Drug paraphernalia is easy to find on trains and platforms.
WCCO took videos on both the METRO Blue and Green lines, from St. Paul to Mall of America, then showed them to Metro Transit's Drew Kerr.
"That's hard to watch, of course," Kerr said. "And it's a hard environment to work in, and it's a hard environment for our customers to ride in and feel safe in. We acknowledge all of that. These are very serious issues."
So what is Metro Transit focusing on to fix this?
"Getting a better presence on transit, meaning more police officers out there on the street and in the train cars, on the platforms," Kerr said.
Maintaining that presence has been a challenge. There are 108 officers right now, down from the budgeted 171.
"We don't know that everybody's gonna see an officer every time they ride. We don't have enough police officers to make that possible," Kerr said.
There are more than a thousand live cameras watching everything, ready to be reacted to. And a Metro Transit memo this month gave this reminder to employees: "Due to a recent rise in overdoses, staff shouldn't assume people who appear to be asleep are not in need of medical attention."
"We're doing what we can. This is a big issue, lots of parts of society are being impacted here, and transit is a part of that," Kerr said. "We're gonna need a lot of resources and help and partnership to have that answer."
Metro Transit reports the number of crimes on trains and buses went up by more than 50% last year. Ridership is also on the rise – 2022 saw an 18% jump from 2021.
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