Valley Metro to add off-duty police officers to light rail security

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(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)

Valley Metro said Friday it plans to add off-duty police officers to light rail security later this year. That announcement comes as Phoenix city council members are handling calls from constituents concerned about safety along the 19th Avenue corridor.

When asked about safety and security issues, Valley Metro released this statement:

"Valley Metro Rail is a safe system and our commitment to maintaining and enhancing our passengers’ experience is unwavering. The system is also a reflection of the neighboring community. The concerns of these areas are also our concerns. We are working to address the concerns created by a maturing system and changing community with increased manpower and resources. In early 2016, we added 17 more security officers, Phoenix added K-9 teams and, later this year, we will be adding sworn police officers to our layered safety & security approach."

A Valley Metro spokeswoman later clarified, saying the police officers would be hired to work off-duty on and off the light rail and that it is unclear how many would be utilized and what routes they would patrol. Susan Tierney said many discussions need to happen with city leaders and law enforcement before the rollout of extra security. The light rail spans the cities of Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe.

Safety and security have long been concerns for passengers and employees.

"This guy who jumped out with a knife and was just swinging it at everybody," recalls passenger Irma Molinar. "He thought people were talking about him and I don't think he had his five marbles put together, to be honest with you."

"I just had a drunk come up to me, and because I didn't want to give him money, he wanted to have an altercation," says passenger Clarence Grayson. He says he can defend himself, but the violent and bizarre confrontations may be overwhelming for others including children.

"My biggest concern for the light rail operators is late at night when they pull into the stations and they have to switch ends to take the train out," says Bob Bean, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1433. He says while operators are protected in cabs, they are not protected when they step onto the platform.

"I think it should be a major concern for all [that] these trains are used as public washrooms," says Bean. "People urinate on them, people defaecate on them."

Bean says he was never notified about community meetings about safety concerns or plans to boost security. He worries Valley Metro will not keep its word.

"We haven't heard a word on it," says Bean. "And it would have been nice if they would have reached out because this is something that we'd really like to be involved in."

Phoenix city council member Debra Stark is joining with council member Daniel Valenzuela to host a community discussion on safety and security issues on the light rail trains and platforms along 19th Avenue. A spokeswoman at Stark's office says the council member has heard concerns from constituents in various community meetings and hopes the discussion not only informs people but offers ideas for solutions.

The meeting is March 9 at 6 p.m. at Honor Health John C. Lincoln Medical Center, located at 250 East Dunlap Avenue.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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