by: Natasha Chen Updated:
SEATTLE - Sound Transit and law enforcement agencies warn riders to keep electronics hidden, as some robbery statistics show people are targeting areas near public transportation.
Pat Murakami, with the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council, asked for robbery data from Seattle police.
She received data showing that in 2008, before light rail started running, robberies within 250 of the route made up 9.8 percent of total South Precinct street robberies.
In 2013, that percentage was 16.6 percent. For the first three months of 2014, that rose to 18.2 percent.
The same area is shared by King County Metro buses.
In the last five years, 70 to 75 percent of robberies in the South Precinct have happened within 250 feet of all public transit routes.
In conversations with police and members of the community, Murakami learned, “Sometimes they’ll observe [riders] over the course of a couple of days. They will either snatch and run, like grab the item just before the doors close at a stop other than the person’s normal stop. Or they follow them off the train, and they are in contact with another group of people in a car, and they kind of rendezvous.”
But Sound Transit itself is patrolled by King County.
KIRO 7 asked the King County Sheriff’s Office for its numbers.
Deputies only recorded five robberies at the stations located in the South Precinct during the first four months of 2014.
Across the whole system, there are on average more than 33,000 riders every weekday.
Bruce Gray, a spokesperson for Sound Transit, said, “Our stations are very safe and the numbers back that up.”
“That’s not the whole story. There are people who don’t speak English well or are afraid of the police given where they come from originally, and so unfortunately, most crime isn’t even reported in South Seattle,” Murakami said.
In addition, Murakami feels there aren’t enough deputies to patrol the light rail.
Sgt. D. B. Gates with the King County Sheriff’s Office said there are 23 deputies assigned to cover all of Sound Transit from Everett to Lakewood.
“We know that with just 23 deputies, we can’t respond to every call,” Gates said. “That’s spread pretty thin. We realize that is not a lot of police out on the street. And so again, that’s why we rely on the local police agencies.”
She added that riders should think of cellphones at their dollar value and keep them hidden.
“Try to think in your head, while you’re out walking around wanting to text, would you be holding $200 cash in your hand, just out there like that?”
Gray told KIRO 7 they will increase security when the new University Link opens in 2016. He said that will likely double the ridership.