Earlier this month, news outlets such as CBS4 reported that a man had been shot and killed near an RTD light-rail station at 29th and Welton streets in Five Points. And while that was true, this location information doesn't help much when it comes to accurately measuring the number of crimes associated with RTD's bus stops, light-rail stations and assorted vehicles.
Why not? Because that particular light-rail station was closed more than a year ago — and even if it had still been in use, the incident may not have actually taken place in an area overseen by RTD.
"The challenge we have when there are shootings or major, serious crimes in the vicinity of our stations," says Nate Currey, RTD's senior manager of public relations, "is that our stations are gathering points in the community — and it's easy for journalists or even police departments to reference that something happened by such-and-such station, even if it wasn't actually on our property."
On the other hand, RTD rides and facilities can be and are the settings for wrongdoing at times. Take a matter that took place on September 8 on the Route 16 bus near Colfax and Miller Street. Around 5 a.m. that day, according to the Lakewood Police Department, a man later identified as Anthony Mata, 26, showed the driver an expired fare ticket. When the driver told him he'd have to purchase a pass in order to continue along the route, Mata allegedly launched into an attack that resulted in a broken nose for the RTD employee, among other injuries. A few days later, a different RTD driver in Westminster recognized the suspect from a surveillance photo, and Mata was subsequently booked on suspicion of second-degree assault and endangering public transportation and utility transmission.
In an effort to determine how common crimes like these are, we asked RTD to pull together data on the subject — and the resulting information, represented in part by documents for the months of June, July and August on view below, provide at least a sense of what's going down.
In 2015, Currey reveals, 33,452 incidents took place — and since 28,902 incidents have happened in 2016 through mid-September, this year's total will almost certain exceed last year's.
Not all of the incidents qualify as crimes, however. The reports shared here include around forty categories, and quite a few of them might not or definitely don't pertain to criminal acts.
Examples include "Abandon Vehicle," "Ambulance," "Animal Calls," "Found Property," "Lost Property," "Mental Subject," "Security Check," "Traffic Problem" and the catch-all division "Miscellaneous." There's also "Death," which shows up only once in the three reports — a single fatality recorded in June.
Other categories seem more clearly criminal in nature, escalating from "Public Intox" and "Liquor Law" to "Menacing," "DUI," "Robbery" and more.
Here are the numbers in several other criminal categories:
Other Sex Offense
Again, not every one of these incidents definitively took place on RTD property. "We don't have a crime analyst working stats or tracking software," Currey notes. "We have to rely on the jurisdictions for this independently."
At the same time, Currey stresses that "our number-one priority is the safety of our passengers," and he says "our extensive network of cameras" is among the best tools to achieve this goal. In his view, "Criminals are wise not to do anything mischievous around our stations, because typically their behavior is caught on camera."
Currey also touts Transit Watch, a new app put out by RTD. "If anyone is feeling uncomfortable or sees any suspicious behavior, they can take pictures and send comments to us," he points out. "They'll be geotagged from where they are, and that goes straight to our security centers. We can have eyes on you within seconds, whether you're on the bus or on the train. If something doesn't seem right, it's a way to document it and get our attention immediately." Click to access the Transit Watch app download page.
As for security personnel, they're not as all-pervasive when it comes to metro-area light rail, as such staffers are on public transportation systems in many other cities. Since tickets aren't scanned or eyeballed as a matter of course on RTD, plenty of scofflaws ride for free on a regular basis — and this approach won't be changing anytime soon. "The actual costs of what we call hardening our stations, where you'd have to pass through a turnstile, are so much more than the return as far as fare evasion goes right now," Currey acknowledges. But he insists that "there are more security personnel out there than most people realize."
Granted, Currey declines to name an exact number of such officers or provide information about staffing by times of day for light rail, citing security reasons. But he's more forthcoming about commuter trains such as the A Line, which fall under federal regulations. Sixty security officers are assigned to the commuter trains.
Other safety measures being undertaken by RTD include the redesign of some shelters and the laying of fiber-optic cable that will allow for high-definition video throughout the system and "amazing response times to our headquarters," Currey notes. He feels such technology will help cut down on petty crime on RTD property, if not eliminate the most serious stuff. "There are different calculations mentally as far as murder and rape and things like that," he says. "But we're really trying to get the message out that if you see something, say something — and also that you're being watched."
Look below to see RTD incident activity reports for June, July and August.