Deputy Chief Delinski spoke to our community at the Feb 2008 FBA meeting regarding the challenges faced by METRO police in the wake of the March 11, 2004 Cercanías commuter rail system bombing in Madrid. FBN reached him last week for an update.
With a force of 450 officers and 127 more persons that include special police, facility headquarter and business development staff within its operation, Washington Metro Transit Police (WMTP) rallied to respond to 59,000 calls received in 2010. Of course, this was in addition to WMTP’S other responsibilities such as comparing notes with other urban transit centers, working with the US Dept. of Homeland Security, and designing for and implementing preventative safety measures to our system. And then there’s the training piece. Delinksi manages the routine training of emergency responders and regional community meetings.
Attempting to describe Delinski’s huge load, along with its sheer number of moving parts to be processed any given day, leads to nothing short of beholding the mythic figure, Atlas, tasked with shouldering the earth. Just consider, WMTP officers have jurisdiction and arrest powers throughout the 1,500 square mile Transit Zone—that includes Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for crimes that occur in or against Transit Authority facilities. This is the only trijurisdictional police agency in the country and serves a population of 3.2 million.
The WMTP is nationally accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. and officer candidates are trained to the standards established for police in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. WMTP detectives are tasked with investigating open crimes and bringing them to closure. Uniformed and plainclothes officers ride Metrobuses at random and in areas where problems have been reported, as well as patrol trains, stationsand parking lots.
Delinski is proud of the training WMTP has facilitated for the 2,000 metropolitan emergency responders, recruits and volunteers. Among the training segments are: crowd control, rescue, right of way, safety feature, recognizing hazards, and how to communicate with the command system center. He also is charged with “regular” training of the fire and EMT in Landover, where they run scenarios with a mock-train.
At the 2008 FBA talk, Delinski reported on hearing a speech by the Sheriff of LA County who, at that time, said that on any given day there were about 5,000 incidents of persons willing to do harm in the United States. While Delinski has not heard any update to that number, he notes it’s enlightening to get a sense of what to be aware of. In fact, there are still ways to improve security. WMTP has recently begun to test a new program of random bagchecking in various METRO stations. Delinski says no program is a silver bullet. But he believes in starting small and to keep expanding. This program is in its infancy and there always has to be balance between security and customer convenience. The airports have seen marked success by this enforcement.
And yet, the scope of WMTP challenges range from domestic and international terrorism to the local petty theft and trouble-making youth active on METRO during the weekends. Economic factors play into it. With the expansion of METRO wireless service from one carrier (Verizon) to a number of carriers, Delinski said there was a huge spike in non-violent robberies like snatch and run. More people are using their cellphones, I phones, and I-pads while in transit and trying to be productive. The bad guys get into the system to steal. It’s an ongoing battle and they’re hard to catch. They go where the police aren’t and are usually individuals and kids. They may be in groups of eight to 10 after school gets out—or just out on weekends.
Delinski stresses how important the public role is in keeping our system safe. Public awareness and credible citizen leads are “greatly appreciated.” A good example is a tourist with his family taking photos. That’s normal. (See previous page.) But if you see someone by himself taking photos of the METRO entrances, the third rail, etc, that would be counted as suspicious behavior.
Whenever you see something suspicious, call WMTP ‘s command center immediately—not when you get home, not the next day. The number is 202-962-2121—call any hour of the day, 7 days a week.
If you are feeling threatened or harassed on the trains, there are push button intercoms at
both ends of the cars. Note the car you are in before you push for help and speak with the train operator who will then reach the command center and metro police.
If you are alone in a METRO station and feel uncomfortable, push one of the button intercoms located on the columns. In stations, you can also ask for assistance from the train supervisors who can engage their two-way radios to reach the command center. Additionally, all METRO transit workers—- the custodians, orange-vested workers—can be asked to contact the WMTP command center on your behalf.
The best advice Delinski emphasizes for individuals using any of the transit systems is to BE AWARE of your surroundings. Stay in a lit place if you are in a station. If you feel the least bit uncomfortable, move to safety and don’t hesitate to ask any of the METRO employees to call the WMTP control center.
To learn more about WMTP and/or read its safety and security tips, go to the Website: www.metroOpensDoors.com. WMTP Call Center number is 202 962-2121—call any hour of the day, 7 days a week.