A 57-year-old man is in critical condition after a shooting at the Busch Stadium platform of the Metrolink Sunday night. Police do not expect the victim to survive.
The shot was fired as one of 6 suspects struggled with a 29-year-old man who had been attacked, along with his father, by a group of people on the train. One of the suspects pulled the gun as the train stopped at the station platform.
The incident led to an outpouring of negative comments on social media about the Metrolink system and its safety. Some people wondered why the system does not use turnstiles to keep non-paying customers off the platforms and trains. Others blasted the system for a lack of physical security in the form of guards, and argued the no concealed weapon policy puts riders in more danger.
Richard Zott is the Chief of Public Safety for Metro Transit at Bi-state Development, the organization that operates the Metrolink. He says, he understands those concerns.
Starting with staffing, Zott says they use a two-tier system when it comes to personal security. They contract with a private security firm to provide armed guards at some platforms as well as roving patrols for the stops where no guards are permanently stationed. He also says, the ticket inspectors on trains act as a deterrent to criminals.
The organization relies heavily on local law enforcement for the second tier of security, according to Zott. Agreements with St. Clair County in Illinois, as well as the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County police departments provide understandings that officers will police platforms and trains in their areas.
On top of the boots on the ground aspect to the security, Bi-State Development leans heavily on its network of security cameras, which is extensive. There are cameras in busses, on trains, and several on the platforms. Each of them capable of capturing misdeeds and recording them for the authorities.
Still, some argue the cameras are not a quick enough solution, as they do nothing to proactively stop a crime being committed.
Zott also addressed the topic of turnstiles. According to Zott, when the system was designed it was conceived as an “open-system” where people could walk up and get on easily. He admits such a system has its benefits and drawbacks, as does any system. He also says, financially, a closed-system supported by turnstiles like what is found in other major cities is not financially possible, currently.
As for the policy about concealed weapons, Zott says, it’s not going to change anytime soon. The reason for that is the compact the organization operates under. According to Zott, the compact with the states of Missouri and Illinois prevents guns from being on their buses and trains. Zott says, to change the policy would require congressional action signed by the President.
Beyond the bureaucratic red tape, Zott says, the safety issue of removing the policy is not something that is being considered. The organization does not want a shoot-out at O.K. Corral on one of their trains, according to Zott.
On a positive note, Zott claims the security camera system allows them to identify suspects, typically, within 24 hours and incident resolution is at roughly 97%.
Some riders do not fear using the Metrolink. Many of them use the public transportation at times when few of the violent crimes are occurring. But even when they do ride late at night, they take extra precautions to be aware of their surroundings and stay on the lookout for potential threats.
And while Zott says the number of security personnel used is based on rider volume, some argue that’s a terrible way to determine staffing levels. Those individuals would like to see the few riders late at night supported and protected by with the same physical security presence as riders during times when crimes are less frequent. To them, a life is no less valuable because of time of day or the number of other people around.
5 On Your Side asked poll-takers the question, 'How safe do you feel riding Metrolink?' The survey allows takers to rate their level of safety on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being completely unsafe and five being completely safe. As of publishing of this article the overall rating was at 1.5.
It should be noted, this particular poll does not adhere to scientific standards, and is being used simply as an opinion poll to anyone willing to take it regardless of their location or agenda.