MTA to foster cooperation with school, city police

Safety plans to be unveiled today

December 20, 2007|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun reporter

After a series of violent incidents on its buses in Baltimore, the Maryland Transit Administration will announce plans today to improve cooperation with city law enforcement agencies.

Jawauna Greene, an MTA spokeswoman, said yesterday that the agency's police officials were meeting "around the clock" with their counterparts in the Baltimore Police Department and the Baltimore school police to develop a plan to improve safety.

Among other steps, the MTA police will ease any jurisdictional policies that might keep officers from the other departments from responding to incidents on MTA property. The MTA will also permit the city police force to patrol its facilities, where they now respond only in emergencies.

"It's not about turf at this point," Greene said.

For example, she said, a city school system police officer's jurisdiction has been considered to have ended once a student gets onto an MTA bus. Under the new plan, that officer would be empowered to board a bus to ensure that students are behaving.

Mayor Sheila Dixon, in a news conference yesterday, suggested that the city will not pick up a great deal of the MTA Police workload. "We emphasized to the MTA that they need to enhance their police force to provide additional support," she said.

Dixon added that city police are working with the MTA, especially in using a crime database to identify hot spots.

"Of course, I'm concerned about what has happened with the behavior of our young people, and we're coming up with some additional strategies," she said.

The MTA is reacting to assaults on its buses in recent weeks. The most recent, in which a girl was stabbed in the arm, occurred Tuesday on a No. 51 bus near Mondawmin Mall. Two juveniles were arrested in that case.

Last week, two passengers on a No. 64 bus in Brooklyn were attacked after an exchange of words with a group of five men. No arrests have been made.

The most serious episode occurred Dec. 4, when a 26-year-old white woman was seriously injured when she was beaten and kicked by a group of black students. The MTA has said its police are investigating that case, in which the woman's white boyfriend was also assaulted, as a possible hate crime.

Up to now, the burden of ensuring public safety on local buses, the Metro subway and the light rail has fallen on the MTA Police, a small department with about 120 sworn officers.

MTA Administrator Paul J. Wiedefeld has said he hopes to expand the force, which would depend on state spending decisions.

"We clearly could use more police officers as the system grows," he said recently. "That's a goal of mine, to put more policemen on the street."

The security plan also calls for working with school officials to do more to educate middle school students on acceptable behavior on public transit.

The MTA also will urge parents to ride the buses at the times their children are aboard as a deterrent to rowdiness.

Sun reporter John Fritze contributed to this article.

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