The Drive: Rider challenges Metro Transit about camera claim

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 26, 2013 - 5:31 PM
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Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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Security cameras will be operating at Metro Transit’s park and ride lot at Hwy. 36 and Rice Street in Little Canada by the end of the month. That’s too late for Patricia Germaine.

On March 8, the Maplewood resident parked her 2000 Toyota Celica in the lot just before 8 a.m., then hopped a bus to her job as a financial analyst in downtown Minneapolis, assured that somebody was watching her car. As it turns out, nobody was.

A thief broke into her car and stole a duffel bag containing only sweaty gym clothes and tennis shoes. Germaine was left with a broken window, a busted door and a repair bill of $1,871. Upsetting for sure. She’s equally miffed because Metro Transit’s website promoted “multiple security cameras” at the lot and there were none.

Germaine said she moved to the Rice Street lot from her former spot at Hwy. 61 and County Road C in Maplewood “because of information given to the public, and that was multiple security cameras.”

“They are touting this as an attractive feature,” she said. “I see something that says ‘multiple security cameras’ and I am going to feel reassured. Now I realize that would be falsely so.”

She challenged the agency on its security claims, but felt stonewalled. Metro Transit says it’s not liable because a camera would not have prevented the break-in.

Capt. Jeff Franklin said detectives will continue investigating until all “solvable factors are exhausted.” He said anybody with information on this or any crime should call Metro’s tip line at 612-349-7222.

Transit spokesman John Siqveland gave Germaine an apology and free monthly passes because of her exasperating experience.

“We do everything in our power to prevent incidents like this,” he said, noting that uniformed police officers regularly patrol the agency’s 79 metro area park and rides. Additionally, cameras on buses and in parking lots are constantly monitored. The agency recently trained 900 employees in how to spot suspicious behavior, get descriptions of perpetrators and be good witnesses.

Siqveland said the agency mistakenly published the list of all features that were to be included in the $2.8 million Rice Street lot, rather than the features that were actually available when it opened in December. Cameras were to be among the last items installed.

We “didn’t check with the project folks to see that all the elements we promoted had been completed,” Siqveland said. With the loss of the Rosedale Center lot, “we wanted to make sure access was available and key infrastructure in place before we go back this spring to put in the rest.”

After the incident, Metro Transit removed the language touting the security cameras from its Web page. That is of small consolation to Germaine. She filed a complaint with the state attorney general.

An average of 11,500 riders use park and rides on weekdays. Incidents like Germaine’s are rare. So far in 2013, there have been nine reported incidents at park and rides, Franklin said. He reminds riders that they must do their part by removing valuables from their vehicles, including items such as gym bags and computer cases — even if they are empty.

“We value the security of patrons’ vehicles,” Franklin said. “People need to put away their stuff.”

Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.

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