Metropolitan Transit Police Department may have discovered a new and modern way of reporting suspicious activities and crime: text messaging.
They are currently testing the service, encouraging transit customers to text anything they see to the emergency services.
This new method would not replace the older emergency intercoms, but it would offer a fresh alternative for riders, said Steven Taubenkibel, spokesperson for the Metro Transit Authority.
“It would be, from the standpoint of Transit Police, another tool that could be used by customers as a way of reporting something that they see, whatever it might be,” he said. “It would also give the rider, for example, the opportunity to report something without some sort of retaliation.”
TPD said they decided to find a new method of reporting based on anecdotal evidence that customers may be afraid to report anything due to fear of the offender.
“We’ve always told customers, if you see something, report it. Customers are afraid to do that,” Taubenkibel said. “They are afraid that if they hit that button, they’ll be seen.”
Following current trends across the nation and the D.C. region, MTA expects to see a 15-percent increase in crimes this year, mainly in terms of robberies.
etro’s crime rates are on course to set the highest record in its 32 years of operation, according to WTOP News. As of the end of July 2008, there were 986 “Part 1” crimes reported on Metro – already over half of last year’s record-breaking number of 1,475 crimes. “Part 1” crimes are classified as aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and robbery.
According to WTOP News, MTPD has made 1,026 arrests this year, issued 3,728 criminal/civil citations and wrote 1,746 fare evasion citations. The most common thefts, according to Taubenkibel, are so-called “Grab’n’Go thefts,” where the thief takes the item directly from the hands of the victim.
Some students are apprehensive about the potential benefits that this new service could provide.
“It really depends on how people use it, because if people are misguided and overuse it or use it poorly then that’s going to affect how the people on the receiving end review the texts and decide what to do about it,” Thomas Clifford (COL ’11) said.
TA authorities agree with this assessment and still emphasize the importance of calling in any suspicious activities.
“It’s possible that there would be increased [reporting], however, it’s important to note that we still want people to call it in,” Taubenkibel added. “There are still a variety of ways for people to get a hold of us.”
Currently, MTA employees are testing out the system to determine its effectiveness, he said. There is no timeframe for when the testing is supposed to end.