“It's bad man, it's just bad,” exclaimed commuter Jerry Brown. “When (there is) stuff going on on the train they ain't nowhere to be seen.”
‘They’ are security and without them, Brown claims his commute has been compromised.
“Coming back at night, 11, 12 o'clock at night,” he says, “these youngsters on there, they're shooting folks and carrying on, man, and jumping on people. From Maplewood station to Central West End-- no security!”
As a result, Brown says that lately he's turned down shifts in the suburbs because he's not sure he'll make it back to his home in the city.
“One of my supervisor(s) asked me to come out to that building to work again. I told him “Man, I'm paranoid. I don't want to catch that train out there no more.”
Brown isn’t alone.
“I would love to have a day soon where I would want to take my family to do something fun in St. Louis,” says Mack Bradley.
He served on former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay's Commission on Violent Crime in 2016. But back in 1993, he and his family were among the first to ride the new trains.
Yet, after more than 20 years of advocating for MetroLink, Mack says right now, he won't let them ride it.
“Clearly as a region we're not rich enough to invest so much money in a system that doesn't work the way it's supposed to work,” said Mack. “We need it and we need it to work the way it was intended to work.”
So is security on MetroLink really that problematic?
When we went to visit various rail stops and platforms at peak hours, we saw a guard on just about every platform.
In addition, Metro says they have guards patrolling the trains too, sometimes using undercover officers.
But that's during peak travel times.
So 5 On Your Side Investigates used St. Louis City, and County crime information related to Metro, crunched the numbers, and found that in Missouri aggravated assaults on MetroLink quadrupled in a four-year period.
Our analysis also revealed the five riskiest stops for travelers, the stops where the most serious crimes occur.
a) The Central West End station, located next to Barnes-Jewish Hospital
b) The Forest Park-DeBaliviere station
c) The Civic Center station
d) The Delmar Loop stop
e) The North Hanley station
So we went to talk with Bi-State Development, the two-state agency that runs MetroLink.
There CEO John Nations told us, “Here at Bi-State we are doing everything we can to make it safe.”
Unlike transit systems in other cities that have their own security force, Bi-State is required by law to use a partnership that is a patchwork of police agencies.
Handling the Missouri side is the Lambert police and the St. Louis County and the City police. In Illinois, it’s
the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department. In addition, Metro employs armed and unarmed private security guards.
Casey Nolen: “People look to you for security but you don't really control security. Is that accurate?”
Nations: “That's been accurate from the beginning.”
Casey Nolen: “Is this the best way to run a light rail?”
Nations: “Well, I think that people are realizing around the region that there are issues with the security and data.”
Just this week, St. Louis County announced new security measures for MetroLink, including a task force with officers deputized to work across multiple jurisdictions while patrolling the rail line. They also mentioned the possibility of other changes like turnstiles.
But for those who rely on the rail system, that announcement is just talk until something actually changes.
“They need to do something about this security,” said commuter Brown.
The plan announced by St. Louis County, to reorganize policing and security of the rail line, is a little light on details and no one can tell us exactly when it will go into action, except to say some aspects should be coming soon.
However, 5 On Your Side will stay on the story and let you know as soon as we know.