12 barred permanently from MetroLink, Metro buses due to assaults, other violations

12 barred permanently from MetroLink, Metro buses due to assaults, other violations

Of the 12 lifetime suspensions handed out, five have been for weapons violations and three apiece for felony assaults and felony property damage.
January 5, 2023

By Mark Schlinkmann, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — Roughly 200 people have been suspended or barred from riding MetroLink trains and Metro buses for assaults and other offenses under a new policy begun by the transit system in the past two and half years.

That includes 12 men who have been permanently banned and about 190 people who have been suspended for various lengths of time.

"What we're trying to do is extract that behavior from the system because a lot of these folks who have found themselves on the list are repeat-type offenders," said Kevin Scott, general manager of security for the Bi-State Development Agency, Metro Transit's parent agency.

The goal, he said, is to impact about 5% of riders who cause "substantial disruption."

The policy was started in mid-2020 amid an overhaul of Metro's security procedures after several high-profile violent crimes. Recommendations included increased visibility of police and security officers. Still to come is the installation of turnstiles at all 38 MetroLink light-rail stations.

Of the 12 lifetime suspensions handed out, five have been for weapons violations and three apiece for felony assaults and felony property damage.

In addition, one man was kicked off the system forever for what Metro called "terroristic threat activity" — which the agency said involved placing empty cylinders in two locations to give the appearance of explosive devices.

Metro didn't release the names of those suspended or specify the respective number of related incidents on buses and light-rail trains.

A few MetroLink riders interviewed Tuesday said they were unaware of the suspension policy. They had mixed opinions on whether they believed security on trains had gotten better in recent years.

Chase Deuser, 38, a kitchen manager from the Tower Grove South area, said he thinks security has improved a little and that he sees officers more often.

But he says problems still occur. For example, he said, one day he saw people running on the train, "going crazy, screaming and yelling."

Yuning Ann, 24, a Washington University student living in University City, said she thinks things actually have gotten worse and that she feels "a little bit unsafe" when riding. "I think it was better a year ago," she said.

Officials with the transit system — which operates in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County — said many people issued suspensions also may have faced criminal charges.

Officials said because the suspensions are Metro administrative "no trespass" orders and not part of a court process, they take effect soon after the time of the incident or incidents involved. Metro doesn't track arrests or criminal charges and leaves that up to police, they said.

Of 85 people on suspension at the end of November, 51 had been involved in some kind of disorderly conduct. The next most common reasons were weapons violations, 45; drug violations, 33; and assault, 30.

Resisting arrest, fighting, alcohol intoxication, public urination, peace disturbance, flourishing a knife and smoking also were listed as reasons for suspensions. Metro said many engaged in more than one type of violation, with the average of nearly three.

Under the policy — called Ride and Abide — police, Metro security officers and contracted security guards also may boot a violator off a train or bus if he or she refuses to comply with agency rules.

When they want to suspend ridership privileges, they file an incident report within 24 hours. Scott has authority to modify or repeal a suspension if circumstances warrant.

Suspended riders can file appeals and request a hearing by a review board of three Metro officials and two appointees of Taulby Roach, Bi-State's CEO.

So far only one appeal has been filed. In that case, the review board reduced the suspension to six months from a year; Metro said it involved an assault but didn't release details.

Asked what happens if someone barred from the system is found not guilty on a related criminal charge, Scott said the person could file an appeal of the suspension if still in effect.

In addition to the 12 permanent suspensions, there have been 109 for a year, 79 for six months and a handful for less than that. The shortest has been for three months, for peace disturbance.

Every Thursday, Scott said, an active list of those suspended goes out to security personnel, along with their photos. "Most of these folks, because they've been continual problems, are known to security," he said.

The suspension policy is an outgrowth of a 2018 recommendation by a committee on MetroLink security formed under an agreement between Metro and its local governmental partners.

But the final version adopted by Bi-State's board left out suspensions for people repeatedly caught not paying the fare, one of the advisory panel's proposals.

Scott said because some riders have little alternative to public transit, "the optics were bad" for suspending people solely due to fare evasion. Instead, he said, Metro and police emphasize issuing tickets in such cases.

Meanwhile, Scott said the vast majority of riders flagged for minor nuisance violations of the system's code of conduct, such as smoking or playing loud music, comply when told to stop.

Chris Hunter, 28, a chef who lives in the Central West End, said he sees security personnel more often on his frequent trips on MetroLink.

"I call it the flight of the bumblebees," Hunter said, referring to the yellow and black attire worn by two security guards he pointed to on the train.

Adam Loepker, 34, a software engineer who lives downtown, said security "might be a little bit better." He said he feels safer on the trains than on station platforms, where he says vagrancy is a problem.

Angie Moore, 60, a custodian from north St. Louis, said, "I don't see any violence, fighting, anything like that anymore."

According to data provided by Metro, the number of criminal incidents on MetroLink as reported by police agencies dropped from 11 per 100,000 boardings in the first quarter of 2021 to 10 in the third quarter of last year.

That's the most recent period for which such information is available.

Scott said it is difficult to compare that data to figures from other years because of a change in the way police agencies list crime numbers under a change in national FBI reporting requirements.

In the new system, when multiple crimes are committed during one incident, each gets counted. Under the old system, only the most serious offense was tallied.

Editor's note: Updated to include correct title for Kevin Scott



(c)2023 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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