Crime rates on the Washington, D.C. Metro are at a five-year low, according to a new report released by the Metro Transit Police Department Jan. 30.
The report shows that incidences of serious crimes, such as homicide and aggravated assault, saw a significant reduction of around 27 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, theft of cell phones decreased by 52 percent, and reports of sexual harassment declined by 13 percent.
Deputy Police Chief Kevin Gaddis attributed the reduction in crime on the Metro to outreach work carried out by the police force in order to raise public awareness.
“A big tactic we’ve used is public outreach, where we keep the public aware of what’s going on and we ask for their help with everything,” Gaddis said.
According to Gaddis, one of the most effective tactics of public outreach includes stationing officers at stations popular with bicyclists and offering users more secure locks.
Additionally, improved technology could contribute to decreasing crime figures, as the Metro’s updated video system makes criminals easier to identify.
Gaddis said that technology improvements also help police officers move more efficiently when crimes occur.
“A lot of times our police officers are going to a scene of robbery, and on their smartphones they’ve already got a picture of the suspect, so they’re able to apprehend them pretty quick,” Gaddis said.
WMATA Spokesperson Caroline Laurin added that the Metro frequently uses social media to quickly investigate crimes.
“We also very effectively use Twitter to our advantage. Because of the use of security cameras in our stations, we’re able to get good photos, so when we do have someone who is behaving inappropriately we’re able to put those pictures out on Twitter, and news outlets pick those up and report on them,” Laurin said. “It often leads to very good tips in from the public, which help lead to arrests.”
Concerns about the sexual harassment number in particular were due to worries that victims were not reporting incidents, though Laurin insisted that the change was due to Metro policies.
“We’ve been very public and vocal about our expectations about sexual harassment on the Metro,” Laurin said
Matt Gunn (COL ’17) said he usually feels safe traveling around the city.
“I feel safe on the Metro, especially compared to where I live in Chile. I’ve actually never heard of anyone getting into trouble, but it’s good that the police are doing more to reduce crime,” Gunn said.
However, Margot McDonnell, a third-year exchange student from England, was more wary of public transportation safety in D.C.
“I haven’t used the Metro very much, but when I went to Rosslyn, I thought the station was very dark and empty. The underground stations in London are brightly lit with plenty of staff and I feel much safer there,” McDonnell said.
While the Georgetown neighborhood is not an area of particularly high crime rates, Laurin still urged students to be vigilant about their personal safety when using public transportation.
“The biggest thing is to maintain awareness of what’s happening around you,” Laurin said. “If you’re aware of what’s going around you you’re going to be better equipped to handle anything that might occur, so we often encourage students to go out with friends.”