MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Sound Transit beefing up security after numerous violent occurrences

Mar 4, 2024, 11:58 AM | Updated: 2:44 pm

sound transit security...

Passengers at the Northgate Station (Photo: Joe A. Kunzler/Flickr)

(Photo: Joe A. Kunzler/Flickr)

Increasing security throughout Sound Transit has become a top priority following a string of violent incidents, according to the agency.

More on the shooting: Man is shot and killed on a light rail train in Seattle, and suspect remains on the loose

The recent incidents included a 26-year-old man who was shot and killed on a light rail train in downtown Seattle last month. The victim hasn’t been identified, and no arrests have been made by the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

“Even though acts of violence near and on our services are not common — this was the first shooting on a light rail vehicle in the system’s history — passengers and staff want to know that they are safe when they are waiting at our stations, riding our services or accessing our park and rides,” Sound Transit said in a prepared statement. “In light of today’s incident, you can expect to see an increased security presence on our trains and at stations. We’re doing that to reassure you that riding Link is still very safe.”

Recent violent attacks on Sound Transit

Last September, a 39-year-old man struck two people in the head with a hammer, injuring them both, in the underground passenger lobby of Sound Transit’s Beacon Hill Station. The victims were a man and a woman in their 60s and, according to court documents, the attack appeared to have been unprovoked.

More on the hammer attack: Court documents provide new details of hammer attack at Beacon Hill light rail station

The month before, a man attacked another man with a rock near the SODO Station. The victim, a man in his 50s, was struck in the head multiple times. According to King County Sheriff’s spokesperson Zoe Birbeck, this attack was also “unprovoked.” That attack was followed by a stabbing two days later at the Angle Lake station.

In total, there have been 256 violent occurrences towards passengers since June 2023, according to Sound Transit spokesperson John Gallagher. He stated the agency averages about 2 million boardings each month.

In 2024, Sound Transit received 105 assault reports, a higher rate than in past years The Seattle Times identified. Most of them were verbal abuse of transit operators, while 47 were physical assaults. In addition, such counts have risen in recent months because more security guards are out in transit stations to either observe or take reports of minor incidents. Sound Transit averaged 42 security complaints per month from riders during 2023, according to the agency’s Performance Metrics Monthly Report.

Sound Transit’s security response

According to Sound Transit, the agency currently has 480 transit security officers and 65 police officers. The police officers are assigned to the transit police unit of the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). Last year, Sound Transit said it would add 300 security workers to its workforce in an effort to keep riders safe. The agency identified people experiencing homelessness riding the trains and drug use as major focuses of the new security teams being hired.

“Even those relatively low numbers are a concern, and we are working hard to reduce them as much as we can,” Gallagher wrote on the Sound Transit Blog in response to the recent violent incidents against passengers. “We also have more real-time insight to direct our presence where most needed to increase rider and staff safety.

More on Sound Transit: Sound Transit restarts fare enforcement, fines for Link light rail

“We recognize we cannot be everywhere at once,” Gallagher continued. “Our increased security staffing includes a new team of Public Safety and Security Field Activity Specialists in the system 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which has decreased our average response time to incidents by more than half, from 10 minutes to five minutes.”

From 2013-2019, there were nine reported assaults severe enough on Metro and Sound Transit buses and trains to require ambulance transport to hospitals, according to The Seattle Times. Those numbers spiked to 55 during 2020-2022, while 2023 had 22 reported assaults.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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Sound Transit beefing up security after numerous violent occurrences