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Elected officials, Bi-State and law enforcement agree to framework for improved MetroLink safety

Train for BannerPress release St. Louis County
Elected officials and law enforcement leadership from the three jurisdictions that fund Bi-State Development met today with Bi-State Development President and CEO John Nations and three Bi-State Development Board members, reaching unanimous agreement on a plan designed to improve MetroLink security.  The plan focuses on a unified law enforcement command with greater officer presence and controlled access for the system.

“We have a structure and approach that will keep MetroLink riders safe,” said St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who hosted the meeting.  “We will have further discussions as implementation begins, but today we have taken significant steps to protect those who ride MetroLink.”

Meeting attendees included St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern.  St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar, Acting Metropolitan Police Chief Larry O’Toole, and St. Clair County Sheriff Richard “Rick” Watson represented law enforcement. Bi-State Development Board members in attendance included David Dietzel, Constance Gully and Vincent Schoemehl.

The plan creates a joint law enforcement task force with members from all three law enforcement agencies.  The number of officers dedicated to MetroLink from each jurisdiction is increased and there will be enhanced patrols.  The task force will be headquartered at a dedicated facility at the Delmar Loop MetroLink stop at Washington University.  All MetroLink law enforcement personnel will be part of a unified police radio communication system that can receive 911 calls and then be used to dispatch law enforcement personnel.  Officers from the task force will be empowered to operate in all three political jurisdictions.

“Our focus in approving and implementing this plan has been on making and keeping MetroLink safe for all those people who rely on it to get to a job or a doctor’s appointment or an important family event,” Mayor Krewson said.  “We want everyone to feel safe, especially those who have no other transportation options.”

A single law enforcement operational commander, St. Louis County Captain Scott Melies, will lead the task force.  Rail-related safety and contract security will report to a to-be-determined officer from the Metropolitan Police Department, City of St. Louis.

Another component of the plan would control access to train platforms.  Currently MetroLink operates as an “open” system.  The task force will immediately begin working with safety consultants to determine the most effective way to physically control access.  This could include turnstiles or other measures.

“The open design of MetroLink was the region’s least expensive option 30 years ago,” Nations said. “Clearly, now the physical aspects of the system need to be re-evaluated and redesigned.” Chairman Kern and Sheriff Watson rode MetroLink to today’s meeting in the St. Louis County Executive’s office.

“MetroLink is such an important part of joining our region together,” Chairman Kern said.  “We fully support the multi-jurisdictional task force approach as the best way to ensure safety and increase MetroLink ridership.”

There are many details to implementing the task force plan and the group will meet again in the very near future for an update on implementation and to ensure that all issues are being addressed.

“We have seen great cooperation from this group and a real desire to improve safety as quickly as possible,” Stenger said.  “There is a lot of work still to be done, but the bottom line is that it will be safer for all who ride MetroLink.”

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