Metro plans to ‘work differently’ when it comes to keeping passengers safe

New DC Area Transit System General Manager Randy Clarke announces changes to how Metro keeps customers safe and responds to those in mental distress.

Nearly two months after taking over Metro, new DC Area Transit System General Manager Randy Clarke announces changes to how the system keeps customers safe and responds to people in mental distress.

“The fundamentals of public transit should be, someone should feel safe using our system and working on our system,” Clarke told WTOP.

For mental health crisis calls, Metro plans to hire several crisis intervention specialists, trained in mental health awareness and de-escalation methods. The announcement, made Wednesday, came as Metro and the Metro Transit Police Department reported a 40% increase in calls involving someone in need of mental health services since the start of the pandemic.

According to Metro, the specialists will be hired over the next few months and, once in place, they will be paired with MTPD agents or operations personnel when answering calls.

“We want to find ways to have people trained in mental health awareness and de-escalation methods to try to engage these types of individuals and get them the help they really need,” he said. -he declares.

Clarke said that at this time they are still determining how many crisis intervention specialists will be brought in.

Along with changes to how it responds to mental health calls, the system also announced that passengers will see more police during their journeys, including police on trains and buses.

The increased police visibility comes as the system, like others across the country, has seen more instances of public disorder, according to Clarke.

“We want people to feel safe and people who may be at risk for disruptive behavior to know that we have people there, and if you commit criminal acts in our system, we are going to see you doing it and we are going to sue you,” Clarke said.

Clarke said this shift in how officers are deployed is already underway. While agents will be seen more system-wide, the focus will be on busier stations such as L’Enfant Plaza.

“We’re going to do this system at scale, there’s no doubt about it, but we’re also going to do much more targeted patrols in areas where there are more people or where we’ve had a higher incidence of criminal behavior. “, says Clarke.

Clarke also said staff will be more visible across the system as part of a new customer experience liaison outreach program. These staff members will have easily identifiable vests when working at stations and in transit centers, according to Metro.

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Maria D. Ervin