Crime reports were up 54% last year for the Metro Transit system compared to 2021, according to Interim Police Chief Rick Grates.
Grates called the numbers “very eye-opening” during a presentation to the Metropolitan Council Wednesday.
Narcotics-related crimes saw the largest increase in 2022, jumping 182% over 2021’s numbers.
“This is a national trend. This isn’t something that’s just specific to us at Metro Transit,” Grates claimed.
He said these nuisance issues, like smoking, using drugs or drinking on Metro Transit’s trains and buses, are “definitely the thing we’re hearing most about.”
But weapons and assault calls were also up, 145% and 28%, respectively.
“We are seeing more firearms and we are seeing ghost guns on the system,” Grates said. According to Grates’ presentation, the most common crimes are simple assault and vandalism or property damage.
His officers remain “very focused” on “facilities hotspots,” which prevents them from riding on the system or conducting check-ins with operators, he explained.
“We’re seeing ourselves really having to be focused on issues at our facilities that are being used for unintended purposes,” he said. For instance, two people were murdered inside a Metro Transit building in St. Paul last month.
The department has seen a “downward trend in staffing” while “calls for service remain high.” Overall, the Metro Transit Police Department has an authorized capacity of 354 employees but is down to just 198 people right now, including part-time officers, support services, and community service officers.
There are 110 full-time officers on staff, down 61 from an authorized strength of 171. In June 2019, there were 138 full-time officers.
“Those officers who are out there working are doing more with [fewer] resources so I really want to commend them,” Grates said.
The Metro Transit Police Department released a 40-point “safety and security action plan” in June 2022 to address rising crime on the system and provides quarterly updates to the Metropolitan Council.
A November report from the Center of the American Experiment found Metro Transit operates the most dangerous light rail system in America, excluding “heavy rail” transit like the New York subway system.