ST. LOUIS — Local officials on Wednesday signed a new MetroLink security and policing agreement crafted over the past two years, despite some plans yet to be implemented.
“People are seeing changes on Metro for the good and we look forward to even more good in the future,” St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said at a ceremony Wednesday after a meeting of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments.
The changes are an outgrowth of studies by WSP USA, a New York-based engineering and consulting firm hired by East-West Gateway in 2018 to assess MetroLink security after a series of high-profile violent crimes on the light rail line in recent years. WSP later was picked to help implement changes.
Included are more barriers to limit entry to some high-use MetroLink stations, better coordination between Metro Transit and local police and a redeployment of Metro’s security officers and contracted security guards so they’re seen more often on trains and platforms.
“You will be seeing them more frequently than you are now,” Lurae Stuart, who heads the WSP team here, told the Gateway Council.
But in a response to a question from St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Stuart said they won’t be on every car and every platform.
Yet to be implemented are plans announced last September by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page to assign 18 county police officers to help short-staffed St. Louis police patrol MetroLink in the city.
County Police Chief Jon Belmar and city Chief John Hayden, who took part in the signing ceremony with Kern and Metro CEO Taulby Roach, said in an interview they still are working out communications and other details. Belmar said he hopes the deployment can begin in the spring.
Another issue is funding. The County Council in December stripped from a budget bill money needed for the officers. Belmar said unless funding is secured, “we may have to pivot” to having county officers work for Metro in the city while off duty.
And St. Clair County’s plans to have some sheriff’s deputies patrol MetroLink in St. Louis, announced two years ago, have run into delays getting deputies certified as police officers in Missouri.
Kevin Scott, Metro’s public safety director, said plans now call for the deputies to instead get security guard licenses here. He said he hopes the deputies can begin working on the Missouri side in a few months.
Meanwhile, the decision to no longer have MetroLink security officers and some contracted guards carry guns drew criticism at the Gateway Council meeting from Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler, questioning whether that will make riders feel safer.
Stuart said the change is aimed at leaving firearms to the police and is part of a nationwide trend. She said riders here in surveys said their main request is for a more visible security presence on trains.