News & Politics

Metro Reports Increase in Cell Phone and Bike Thefts

Crime on the transit system is up over 2012, and Metro is also listing the stations with the greatest number of incidents.

The Brookland-Catholic University station on the Red Line had the highest number of crime reports through August. Photograph by Flickr user Hannah Hudson.

Thefts of cell phones or bikes make up nearly 60 percent of all crimes committed on Metro, the transit agency reports in a release of its crime statistics for the first eight months of 2013. Brookland-Catholic University station on the Red Line in Northeast DC was the site of the most incidents, with 44.

Overall, crime is up on Metro this year, which authorities attribute to a general upward trend in the number of thefts of cell phones and other portable electronic devices. There were 1,432 crimes reported on trains and buses and at stations through August, a 9.8 percent increase over the 1,304 incidents reported through the same point last year.
Riders who gaze over their iPhones, iPads, and other devices make easy targets for thieves, Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik said earlier this year, when Metro introduced public service advisories warning customers about rising crime in the system. Metro spokesman Dan Stessel tells Washingtonian that recent security features introduced by Apple in new releases of its iOS operating system are a bit of a deterrent.
Rounding out the top five locations for crime incidents were Orange Line stations Deanwood and Minnesota Avenue, in Northeast; Gallery Place, in Northwest; and Red Line station Rhode Island Avenue, also in Northeast. Stessel says that it’s not worth fixating on the list of stations with the most crimes, though. “Brookland, there’s one crime every five days,” he says. “It’s not like there’s a crime wave on Metro property.”
Capitol Heights, on the Blue Line, led all Maryland stations with 33 incidents. Vienna, on the Orange Line, topped the list for Virginia, with 28.
Metro officials point out that the crime rate inside the transit system is lower than in the Washington area at large, with 7.08 incidents for every million riders. Still, Metro Transit Police are faced with deterring a rise in thefts in robbery. Through August, there were 450 instances of property being snatched from Metro riders, up from 327 during the same period last year.
Bike theft also spiked 50 percent, with 303 bicycles stolen this year compared to 202 in 2012. Robberies that used weapons, violence, or the threat of violence also climbed.
There were 71 reported sexual harassment complaints on Metro between January and August. Stessel says this figure is down from last year, when the transit agency launched an anti-harassment public service campaign.
See the full crime report below.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.