St. Clair County sheriff’s deputies will now be allowed to patrol MetroLink trains on both the Illinois and Missouri sides of the St. Louis region’s light rail system.
County Board members approved the agreement at their meeting Monday night, two months after the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a similar measure allowing St. Clair County deputies to patrol in the city.
The move comes as officials call for increased security on MetroLink, which saw a string of violent crime in recent years. St. Louis County police say crime rates have decreased in the first part of 2018 on MetroLink, St. Louis Public Radio reported in April.
County Board Chairman Mark Kern said the agreement comes “in an effort to try to solve the crime problems and the perception of crime problems on Metro trains.”
“We have to ensure our riders are safe,” Kern said.
Deputies will be allowed to pursue suspects and patrol in both states under the new agreement. The MetroLink system spans from Scott Air Force Base in Illinois to Lambert Airport and Shrewsbury-Lansdowne I-44 stations in Missouri.
The agreement also allows St. Louis police to patrol or pursue in St. Clair County, but the main purpose of the agreement is to shore up a “manpower shortage” in the city, Kern said. St. Louis County police also patrol in the city.
Deputies will patrol trains, stations and park-and-ride lots as part of the agreement. They will be required to spend 80 percent of their time on trains if they’re not involved in making an arrest or other detail.
Bi-State Development Agency, which oversees MetroLink, will pay the Sheriff’s Department $1,620,943 for the period from July 1 to June 30, 2019 for its deputies’ services on the light rail.
A total of 15 deputies will take responsibilities MetroLink duties, including one lieutenant, two sergeants and 12 street patrol deputies.
The only remaining step will perhaps be some certification sheriff’s deputies need to patrol in St. Louis, said Taulby Roach, a consultant for the St. Clair County Transit District.
Metro officials approved a $400,000 study in March to analyze crime on MetroLink. The study is expected to be completed this fall.
In other business
▪ Board members approved money to help the East St. Louis Park District to help replenish its funds after paying its bill for refurbished tennis courts in Lincoln Park. The park district asked the County Board for $19,785 to help refurbish the district’s accounts after paying for lighting repairs, a handicap accessible ramp and a practice backboard at the courts. The money will come from the Property and Recreation Committee, which implements a county tax associated for park services, according to County Administrator Debra Moore.
▪ Board members approved $35,000 to restore and relocate a World War I monument in East St. Louis. Previously at 25th and Lynch streets, the monument was in a state of disrepair. The East St. Louis Park District requested the replacement after American Legion Post 2505 initiated an effort to protect the monument’s historical value. The refurbished monument will be placed at Argonne Drive and 25th Street at the entrance to Jones Park.
▪ Board members gave the go-ahead to four solar projects in Smithton Township. Local farmers have said solar is an attractive use of their land as soybean prices decline.
▪ The County will form an Emergency Response Coalition after receiving approval from Board members. The coalition will develop an emergency response plan for use in natural disasters. Under the agreement, local labor organizations will help with cleanup after a storm, Kern said.
▪ St. Clair County sheriff’s deputies will provide security for Wirth-Parks Middle School in Cahokia School District 187 under an agreement approved by County Board members. A full-time deputy will provide law enforcement at the school as well as foster relationships with staff and students with the goal of maintaining a safe and peaceful atmosphere, according to the agreement. The school district will pay for the deputy’s salary of $67,191 plus $37,169 in benefits for a total cost of $104,360.