A Republican lawmaker plans to introduce a package of bills to address Metro Transit light rail safety after a new report showed rising levels of crime and violence at stations across the Twin Cities.
Fox 9 Investigators published a report last week showing that aggravated assaults (involving a weapon or causing serious injury) totaled 59 through July 31 of 2019. Last year the light rail system saw a total of 52 aggravated assaults, while 41 were recorded in 2017.
As of October 28, 2019, the light rail system had 384 incidents of robberies and theft, compared to 330 in all of 2018 and 374 in 2017.
“Minnesotans from across the state use the light rail to commute to work, attend sporting events and concerts, or travel to the airport,” Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), the Republican leader on the House Transportation Finance Committee, said in a statement.
“Sadly, Metro Transit’s own data reveals a transit system in crisis with a record number of assaults, robberies, and other criminal activity taking place on trains and at light rail stations. Minnesotans deserve to feel safe when using the light rail system and it’s clear that the Metropolitan Council is not doing enough to ensure their safety,” he added.
Torkelson said he’s considering introducing a number of bills to improve the safety of Metro Transit, including one proposal that would look at constructing barriers or turnstiles to prevent people from accessing light rail platforms without purchasing a ticket.
Another bill could direct Metro Transit and the Metropolitan Council to prioritize an increase in sworn Metro Transit officers, and an increase in officers present on light rail trains and platforms. He’s also looking at proposals to make it a crime to loiter on light rail platforms while a final proposal would increase the number of fare inspectors on trains.
The Republican expects to have a package of proposals ready for introduction during the first month of the 2020 legislative session, his office said.
“It’s time for the Legislature to consider enhanced security measures to make sure Metro Transit employees and the public are able to use light rail without fear of being assaulted or robbed,” Torkelson said.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Minnesota Metro Station” by Tony Webster. CC BY-SA 2.0.