Since this summer, the Transit Response Unit (TRU) team has been using data to proactively address customers’ concerns like disorderly conduct, smoking, drinking, and other inappropriate behaviors.
“We are combining technological resources a such as crime data, the use of video technology in real time, and the direct concerns voiced by our customers and employees,’’ Capt. Rick Grates, who heads the department’s patrol division said.
The TRU team is a Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) unit compromised of up to seven officers and a sergeant who interact and ride with customers in areas informed by data. On any given day or week, these officers could be anywhere in the seven-county system.
“Although the team operates independently from normal 911 response duties, they are actually a supplement to our 911 response units by focusing on problem areas when a 911 response car might be called away,’’ Grates said.
On a recent midday, a uniformed TRU team under Sgt. Tim Lawrence showed up unexpectedly in downtown St. Paul. Officers talked with small groups clustered on the sidewalk, hopped on buses to ask operators how their trips were going, and were available for people waiting at bus stops to share their concerns.
“We look at where the trouble areas are every day,” Lawrence said. “Then we develop strategies whether to use plainclothes details, put them in uniforms, or have a couple in uniform, and a couple of plainclothes officers on a train.”
Last month, they arrested seven juveniles connected to an aggravated robbery, an uncommon crime on Metro Transit’s system. Those arrests occurred because the TRU team already had officers out there to address less serious crimes that affect customers’ comfort level.
“Operators will appreciate that MTPD is reviewing complaints and crime stats and going to the locations most likely to result in positive outcomes,” said Christy Bailly, Director of Bus Operations.
Through August, the team had made 31 arrests ranging from aggravated robbery, to people wanted on warrants to narcotics violations. In one work week, they rode 154 trains and performed 247 bus operator checks.
The TRU team consists of Officers Tommy Eam, Ahmad Kahin, Xiong Lor, Aubrey Olson, Mike Olson, Amanda St. George, and Canon Yang.