- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2011

The number of aggravated assaults throughout the Metro system continues to increase, agency police Chief Michael Taborn said Thursday.

The chief reported 25 aggravated assaults during the first quarter of 2011, which ended in March, compared to 24 over the same period last year, 22 in 2009 and 19 in 2008.

In addition, the number of first-quarter car thefts and attempted thefts jumped from 25 last year to 38 this year, Metro officials said.

However, the number of first-quarter violent crimes such as rapes and robberies decreased.

“It’s really, really low, but one crime in Metro is one crime too many,” Chief Taborn said.

The number of assaults on bus drivers, which cover everything from spitting to striking, is similar to that in the first quarter of 2010, with the offenders being “overwhelmingly young adults,” the chief said.

An increased presence of uniforms and plainclothes officers — or at least the perception of an increase — should reduce such crimes, Chief Taborn told members of Metro’s board of directors at a safety and security committee meeting Thursday.

In addition, Metro safety officials briefed members on an accident that took place at 2 a.m. Thursday when a Metro-operated flatcar struck a contractor-owned grinding machine from behind.

No Metro employee was injured, but officials were still trying to determine whether the driver of the machine was hurt, said James Dougherty, the agency’s chief safety officer.

The units usually travel the rails as a team. The flatcars carry thousands of gallons of water and a pump to spray down dust and particles blown up by the grinding machine.

The grinder was not moving at the time of the accident, Mr. Dougherty said, and Metro is looking at protocol, hand signals and brake operations to determine what caused the incident.

Metro officials also acknowledged that two empty trains ran red signals in the Brentwood rail yard on April 20 and May 6.

Running a red signal was the cause of a Farragut North station derailment in 2010 that resulted in minor injuries to a handful of passengers.

“At no time was there a risk to passenger safety,” said Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel.

However, both operators were removed from service and will be retrained following any disciplinary action, Mr. Taubenkibel said.

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