Crime rides the busby Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
A Metro Transit bus shooting early Sunday morning has some riders on edge.
A 16-year-old boy was shot and killed in downtown St. Paul while a passenger on a number 74 Metro Transit bus. The 74 runs all the way from the St. Paul suburb of Maplewood, through St. Paul to the light rail line in south Minneapolis.
A St. Paul police spokesman says officers have arrested a 17-year-old from St. Paul whom they expect to charge.
St. Paul, Minn. — There have been several violent incidents on or near Metro Transit vehicles and stops recently.
A sampling of rider attitudes at St. Paul bus stops reveals a sharp split. Some say they feel safe waiting for and riding buses. Other's are worried about the crime they observe.
Like many riders Laura Figeuroa, uses transit by necessity, not by choice. The 34-year-old single mother of two says she and her children ride every day. Figeuroa says she senses crime at the downtown St. Paul bus stops she uses is up over the eight years she's been riding buses.
"Every time it's worse, getting worse and worse and worse," she said while waiting for her bus a block away from where Sunday's shooting took place.
Figeuroa says drug dealing is common. She says the dealers keep a careful watch for the police and change their appearance to avoid detection.
"They change clothes or run or walk fast when they see police coming," she says. "Yeah, it would be helpful also to have more people tell the police to report those activities."
The stop is busy with lots of people of all ages.
A handful of young men aren't riding. They migrate from one stop to another a block away. When asked, one of the men indicates he knew the victim, but declines to answer more questions from a reporter.
Metro Transit rider David Freeze says he notices more suspicious and threatening behavior at bus stops.
All Metro Transit buses have cameras, but only a few bus stops have them. Freeze wants more police riding buses to add some muscle to the cameras.
"I do think it's an important feature but it doesn't seem like it's working," he said. "You know, what are we paying the transit police for and they're not riding. All they're doing is riding around in their cars. They should have one on the bus for security and safety."
Metro Transit Police Chief Dave Indrehus says it's not practical to have a police officer on every bus.
Metro Transit operates 800 buses and 30 light rail cars every weekday.
Indrehus says transit police numbers have quadrupled since 2002. He says there are 54 full time officers on the force and another 60 part-timers, off-duty officers hired from other forces.
Indrehus says up to 15 Metro Transit police cars patrol every day. They cover 85 cities in the seven county Twin Cities area.
"Every one of those cars is required to do at least five rides on board a bus on every shift that they work," Indrehus said. "In addition to that we have four officers committed full time to riding on buses, I mean they spend their entire eight hour shift on a bus."
Indrehus says he does not know Metro Transit crime statistics for the last calendar year.
He says over the last 12 months on bus route 74, the route where Sunday morning's fatal shooting occured, there have been eight reported incidents.
"One of those was a purse snatch, three of them were some kind of pushing and fighting going on on the bus and a couple of operators were spit on by some irate passengers," he said.
Killings on buses and trains are very rare. The Federal Transit Administration collects nationwide crime numbers for all modes of transit.
An FTA spokesman says on the nearly 600 U. S. Transit systems which carry hundreds of millions of riders, there were two homicides last year and one in each of the years before that.
Indrehus says he's talking with the police chiefs of St. Paul and Minneapolis and with the Hennepin County Sheriff's department to increase security on buses and around bus stops.
- All Things Considered, 04/23/2007, 5:20 p.m.