Guest post by Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington
University Avenue looks much different today than it did when I began riding Metro Transit buses as a patrol officer more than 20 years ago. The METRO Green Line promises to bring even more change to the corridor, long the busiest east-west transitway in Minnesota.
While we don't expect light rail to dramatically alter the public safety dynamic in St. Paul, the return of rail service is something everyone along the route must prepare for – including local, county and state police.
Metro Transit Police officers are doing just that, connecting with community members and residents, strengthening partnerships with partner agencies and growing to meet the demands of our growing transit system.
In March and April, Metro Transit and partner agencies held joint emergency preparedness exercises at Stadium Village and Raymond Avenue stations to simulate emergencies involving light-rail. To reinforce safety messages, Metro Transit and St. Paul police in April began an outreach campaign to provide motorists, pedestrians, transit customers and bicyclists the information they need to safely navigate the Green Line corridor. We’ve interacted directly with hundreds of residents and will continue this important work after trains open to the public on June 14.
We’ve also grown the department to keep up with the expansion of transit services. Another 20 part-time officers were sworn in this week, expanding the force to a diverse group of 94 full-time and 100 part-time officers. Many of these officers will work out of our new East Command center near University Avenue, including 22 who will focus specifically on the Green Line and the neighborhoods it serves.
As Capt. Jim Franklin recently told The Star Tribune, the “rail beat concept” will be a key to effectively policing the Green Line corridor. “You get officers that know the area very well,” Franklin told the newspaper. “They know the businesses. They know the community and really will get to know the ridership.”
Building these relationships will be aided by the fact that officers will spend more time than ever patrolling on foot, on bike and on board trains and buses. A number of officers were recently added to our bike patrol squad, which can be more nimble in Green Line’s dense urban environment. In Minneapolis, we are participating once again in Minneapolis SafeZone, a multi-agency effort that provides additional patrols to ensure safety during the busy summer months.
While building personal relationships is important, we are also harnessing data to focus our efforts and using technology more than ever. Each Green Line station and all light-rail trains are equipped with multiple security cameras that can be monitored in real time. Call boxes at each station are available in the event of an emergency.
Like University Avenue, our department will continue to evolve and grow as trains transform the way Twin Cities residents get around. Whatever the future holds our fundamental approach to policing and commitment to providing a safe, secure environment for all who use or interact with transit will never change.
> Star Tribune: Get a driver's point of view riding alongside Green Line
> Police Chief John Harrington on MPR's Daily Circuit
> MPR: Walk, bike and drive safely along the Green Line
> Pioneer Press: Policing the Green Line: Metro Transit promises cameras, cops, analysis
> Star Tribune: Police prepare for safety on Green Line
> WCCO: Officials work to educate public on Green Line safety
> Fox 9: Officers patrol University Avenue to raise light rail awareness
> KSTP: Navigating the new METRO Green Line
> Pioneer Press: Green Line will require safety heads-up by motorists and pedestrians
> Star Tribune: Emergency-preparedness drill near the U tests response to train-bus crash
> Pioneer Press: Light rail readies to roll, and St. Paul responders prepare, too
> KSTP: Crews practice emergency response with light rail derailment situation
> Star Tribune: Busier, safer St. Paul streets
> Green Line Safety
> Transit Police on board and on bike