A 47-year-old man was fatally stabbed last week during an altercation on a Blue Line light-rail train near the Mall of America. That was one of dozens of incidents involving deaths or injuries on or near the trains in the past year. In fact, Metro Transit police report that this year they’re having about 27 “Text for Safety” conversations per day with light-rail passengers reporting incidents on and around the trains.
That’s why two new strategies to bolster LRT safety are welcome.
Late last month, Metro Transit Police announced that its officers could begin using body cameras sometime this year.
And more recently, the Metropolitan Council approved spending $1.3 million to install higher-resolution cameras on 91 light-rail trains. The devices will give sharper 360-degree views of each car, and transit officers will be able to monitor and record in real time.
The high-tech cameras could also help dispatchers see when trains are unexpectedly delayed so they can send information to riders more quickly. They’ll also be able to tell when a car needs to be taken out of service, and they can respond to overcrowding on platforms and in cars during special events.
Another benefit is that the new cameras will help officers catch and prosecute offenders. As a Metro Transit spokesman said, the cameras will paint a more complete picture of what’s going on and “allow for better arrests and better evidence for prosecution.’’
As of November 2018, Metro Transit figures showed an alarming increase in crime on or near the Twin Cities light-rail system. Serious crimes, including robberies, aggravated assaults and theft, were up 35% at that time — and those numbers did not include stations in downtown Minneapolis.
Officials reported 59 aggravated assaults — violent incidents that involved a weapon causing serious injury — through the first seven months of 2019. There were 52 in all of 2018 and 41 in 2017. And St. Paul police have reported increases in gun violence around the Green Line, which runs between the downtowns.
Metro Transit should continue to explore all strategies to make the light-rail system safer. Improved camera surveillance and the use of body cameras is a good start.