MINNEAPOLIS — Millions of people ride Metro Transit every year, but ridership is down due to changing commuter habits and rising crime.
New Police Chief Ernest Morales III announced a new, $2 million initiative on Thursday to try and change that.
“I’m really excited about the momentum we’ve been building on,” said Chief Morales, who’s planning to target six of the area’s most troublesome light rail stations. That includes stations on Lake Street and in Brooklyn Center, some of which receive up to two dozen calls for service a day when others don’t get any.
“Make no mistake, while we enforce the code of conduct in an empathetic and respectful manner, we will enforce the law,” said Chief Morales.
Besides trying to hire 26 new officers, ongoing facility improvements and adding security cameras, Metro Transit is now partnering with several community groups as part of this new effort funded by the transportation bill Gov. Walz signed last week. It’s still seeking other partners to contract with but has already partnered with the police department’s Homeless Action Team, Circle of Discipline and A Mother’s Love.
A Mother’s Love has served the community for nearly a decade and will have 10 of its members patrolling trains at peak hours and offering homeless kits filled with donated items. It will also provide people with referrals in as little as two days for more in-depth services to help with housing or a job. The group’s COO, DonEsther Anderson, says they also teach people compassion and manners.
“Many of the clients we run into through Metro Transit are really looking for direction,” said Anderson. “It’s not that many of them don’t have an education or been trained at home, they’ve been struggling and fighting on their own for so long, that all they can see is their needs.”
Leaders at the press event called this change a turning point to improve the safety and security of transit for everyone.
“It has to be safe, it has to be convenient, it has to be affordable or else this metro area will not succeed,” said Sen. Scott Dibble.
The new initiative will include the social service groups for three weeks. After that, there will be an increased police presence from other cities, including Bloomington and St. Paul for nine weeks
Only then will Metro Transit evaluate what worked and what didn’t.
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