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'We Had To Do Better': Metro Transit Leaders Discuss New Security Strategy

Kevin Scott (at left) and Taulby Roach joined Wednesday's show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Taulby Roach has made the safety of the St. Louis region’s transit system a major focus since becoming president and CEO of Bi-State Development 14 months ago. Just last week, he and other area leaders gathered to mark the culmination of two years of study and planning aimed at improving safety on buses and light rail lines. They touted the creation of a four-prong “systemwide security strategy” aimed at reducing “the rate and perception of crime” on transit, among other commitments.

Bi-State also recently selected private security firm GS4 for a three-year contract, and has a new plan in place for a bigger police presence on MetroLink, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Roach joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss the latest developments in the agency’s safety efforts.

"There’s no question that in a public asset like this, what I need is engagement and people who care about it, and what we’d been hearing for months is that we had to do better,” Roach said. “So really, the tasking was clear [when I took over]. And so I tried to bring some clarity to that tasking and [to] rally our forces and work with, of course, our colleagues and to do a better job. We’re on the precipice of that, and I’m really excited about it.”

Kevin Scott, director of public safety for Metro Transit, also participated in the conversation. He outlined the planned changes, which he summed up as a strategy of “staunch collaboration.”

“We’ve taken a look along with our partners — police partners and all of our stakeholders — at what can we do to make the system better. And what people really want to see on our system is a visible security component that positively engages our ridership to ensure the quality of that ride.”

When Fenske asked what that will look like, Scott described it as “a layered approach, where you have a solid visible layer of contract security.”

“The Metro Transit security specialists will be the core of that layer and represent the brand and corporate interests,” he said. “And then you have the law enforcement component.

“And so what we’ve done in devising this new deployment is we’ve focused on what our clear roles and responsibilities are. So everybody’s not going to be policing the system. The two major visible components of the layered security approach will be securing the system, and we’ll work more collaboratively with the police to actually police that system when we need to bring them in.”

Roach added that this approach reflects the idea of transit as “essentially a community.”

“It happens to be a moving community where we have regular folks who are customers who are moving in and out of that,” he said, “[and] most of my customers use the system almost every single day. ... And so the key component to this layered and almost community and neighborhood approach is that we have the right people, in the right place, with the right tools and the right training.”

The conversation also touched on fare enforcement on MetroLink and the need to address issues on MetroBus and Call-A-Ride systems as well. Scott noted that Metro’s bus service comprises the transit agency’s largest operation and customer base.

“We cannot be dismissive of bus operations,” he said, “and so we have service areas built out [on] the bus operations side, and those will also be staffed with transit security specialists to coordinate security needs within those areas, and that’s something new that we’re moving toward.”

Listeners called, emailed and tweeted to the show over the course of Wednesday morning and during the live show.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.