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WMATA launches public safety initiatives

MTPD has reported a 40% increase in people needing mental health assistance since the beginning of the pandemic.
Photo – Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority


The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority yesterday announced the launch of several new public safety initiatives.

As part of a new "HelpingHands" safety patrol operation, Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) will increase officer availability and visibility throughout the transit agency's rail and bus systems to offer additional support to riders, WMATA officials said in a press release. Officers will also ride trains and buses in intervals throughout the day.

Later this year, WMATA also plans to hire several crisis intervention specialists trained in mental health awareness and de-escalation methods. The specialists will be paired with police officers or operating staff to respond to riders with mental health disorders or intellectual or development disabilities, WMATA officials said.

“We’ve been listening to customers over the past two months, and it’s clear that a better, safer customer experience is paramount to rebuilding ridership and customer trust,” said General Manager and CEO Randy Clarke.

MTPD has reported a 40% increase in people needing mental health assistance since the beginning of the pandemic, officials added. Those officers are not trained mental health experts, so the new civilian roles will provide an additional, more appropriate crisis response and community resources, WMATA officials said.

In addition, the agency plans to launch a new customer experience liaison outreach program to increase staff visibility in stations. Program staff will wear easily identifiable uniforms throughout the system and will especially be on hand during special events and service disruptions, WMATA officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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