Two high-profile crimes took place at metro-area light-rail stations within days of each other earlier this month -- and while several suspects have been busted in one of the cases, a robbery, the trio wanted for a stabbing at the other remain on the loose.
Do these incidents reveal flaws in security at light rail stations? An RTD spokesman doesn't think so, but he stresses that the agency takes them seriously and is examining them closely to see if safety can be improved.
The first of the recent incidents took place around 5:40 a.m. on June 14 at the RTD 9 Mile Station, 3181 South Parker Road, in Arapahoe County. Four young African Americans and one Hispanic male approached the victim in a parking garage. They initially asked for his phone, after which one of the suspects whipped out a gun and demanded a wallet, too. Here's a look at two of the suspects as caught on surveillance cameras at the station....
...and this image depicts four members of the quintet:
Days after news agencies shared photos like these, four of the five suspects, all juveniles, were arrested. But an adult suspect is still wanted in the incident, and no busts have been announced regarding the second crime, which happened at Lakewood's Lamar light-rail station, 6363 West 13th Avenue in Lakewood, at approximately 2 a.m. on June 17.
In that instance, a couple was approached by three males who asked them for a cigarette. They'd tried to walk away, at which point the woman was stabbed from behind in the neck/shoulder area and the man was pepper sprayed. The attackers didn't ask for any money or items, making the attacks that much more senseless. Here's an image from that scene.
When asked if matters like these are becoming more common as light-rail ridership increases, RTD spokesman Scott Reeds says, "No, they're extremely rare. That's why I believe police are so concerned with how bold the individuals in these crimes have been."
That's especially true in the 9 Mile robbery, he continues. "It was in broad daylight, right around rush hour. There are often thousands of people who travel through that park-and-ride on any given day. So it's pretty amazing and fortunate that no one happened upon the robbery in progress. That could have complicated things."
Rather than assigning security personnel to each station 24/7, Reeds notes that "we have security officers, off-duty police officers, street and rail supervisors and other RTD personnel on patrol at any given time. In addition, local law enforcement personnel patrol RTD facilities within their jurisdictions. There are also hundreds of citizens who have completed our CERT [Citizen Emergency Response Training] program and potentially thousands of passengers who can access our 24-hour Transit Watch center."
Additionally, Reed says, "all of our station platforms have video cameras" of the sort that produced the images seen here.
While RTD officials haven't picked up a rising pattern of crimes at light-rail stations, Reed acknowledges that "we're very concerned about this and have taken additional steps to alert security officers, our street and rail supervisors, as well as our employees, to be on the lookout and report anything that seems suspicious. And we are working very closely with police jurisdictions along our rail lines to make sure they're aware and assisting as well."
The process is ongoing, Reed emphasizes, "and once these individuals are apprehended, if there is any additional information that can be gleaned as to why these sites were selected, or if it was just random, we can put that into the mix as well. But right now, our main focus is on increasing awareness and patrols as much as we can and working directly with law enforcement jurisdictions to make sure they're also aware of what's been going on."
In the meantime, Reed offers the following advice.
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"As with any time people are travelling in public, and especially if they're traveling alone, they need to be aware of their surroundings," he says. "If they're noticing unusual behavior of individuals or groups, quickly report that. Because if something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't. People's instincts are usually correct, and they should trust that and as quickly as possible report to law enforcement or RTD security anything that seems suspicious or out of the ordinary."
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Update: Four teens busted in Arapahoe County light-rail station robbery caught on camera."