Metro-East News

St. Clair County, St. Louis OK plan to improve MetroLink security

MetroLink riders talk safety at SWIC station

St. Clair County IL County Board Chairman Mark Kern has called for more security on St. Louis, MO MetroLink trains that run through southern Illinois that includes stops at Scott Air Force Base AFB, IL, Belleville, IL, Swansea, IL, Fairview Height
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St. Clair County IL County Board Chairman Mark Kern has called for more security on St. Louis, MO MetroLink trains that run through southern Illinois that includes stops at Scott Air Force Base AFB, IL, Belleville, IL, Swansea, IL, Fairview Height

As part of ongoing efforts to improve safety on MetroLink in the wake of recent crimes, elected leaders from St. Clair County, the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County have formally signed a memorandum of understanding outlining a security plan for the system.

Under the plan, a joint law enforcement task force with members from all three government bodies would be created and allow officers from each jurisdiction on the task force to operate in all three areas.

The memorandum, signed by St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, has now been forwarded to Bi-State Development president and CEO John Nations for his signature, according to a news release from St. Louis County.

Bi-State Development oversees MetroLink.

John Nations, president and CEO of Bi-State Development said he has received the MOU and will review it with Bi-State’s board of commissioners.

He said he thinks the “regional emphasis on making the system safe is good for the system,” but he “wished circumstances were better.”

Nations said he supports uniformed armed law enforcement officers with the power to arrest people on trains, operating under a uniform command so there is cooperation across jurisdictions.

There have been calls to have turnstiles at stations, but Nations said that would require putting in fencing along the 47-mile line.

He said the open MetroLink system, designed in the 1980s, requires strong fare enforcement and does not serve the security needs of 2017.

“I think every option ought to be on the table,” Nations said. “I think it needs to be vetted as to what is the best use of security money in order to make the system safe.”

The agreement outlines intentions and expectations, including specific responsibilities of each of the parties, the news release said.

The task force would have headquarters at a dedicated facility at the Delmar Loop MetroLink stop located at Washington University.

All MetroLink law enforcement personnel would be part of a unified police radio communication system that can receive 911 calls and then be used to dispatch law enforcement personnel.

According to the St. Louis County news release, the memorandum says Bi-State will not decrease its level of publicly funded security services, rail-related safety personnel or contract safety personnel without the urging of the task force. It also specifies that Bi-State will not directly employ law enforcement officers and will only employ security officers.

The agreement also calls for a Transit Advisory Working Group. It would consist of prosecutors from St. Louis County, St. Louis and St. Clair County, law enforcement leaders from the three jurisdictions, representatives of Amalgamated Transit Union Local Number 788, and of Citizens for Modern Transit.

Calls to increase security along the MetroLink line have come in the wake of recent crimes.

A man in April was shot and killed at the University of Missouri-St. Louis stop in north St. Louis. In March, a homeless man was shot and killed at the Busch Stadium MetroLink platform.

Last month, a man was charged with punching a security officer at the Fairview Heights stop.

Earlier this week, shots were fired at a MetroLink train east of the Washington Park station. No one was hurt.

On Thursday, two men were apprehended by the Clayton Police Department after they allegedly robbed a person at the Clayton MetroLink station, according to a release from the St. Louis County Police Department.

The Bi-State Development Board recently allocated $20 million for security upgrades as part of its annual budget approval.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

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