- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A recent spate of violent attacks on Metro trains has police searching for suspects in four incidents over the last few weeks on the Red, Yellow and Green lines, including at least two involving small gangs of youths.

In one attack on New Year’s Day, passengers were beaten on a Yellow Line train by a group of young people. And a few days before Christmas, another group of youths assaulted a rider on the Red Line near the NoMa-Gallaudet station.

Other recent incidents include a man who was attacked at the Pentagon City station on Dec. 27 and a Jan. 5 robbery at the U Street Station.

And riders are still reeling from the Independence Day attack on a Red Line train in which Kevin Joseph Sutherland, 24, was stabbed to death in front of other passengers during a robbery.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the transit system is deeply concerned about the blatant nature of the incidents.

“It’s not so much about the number or frequency of incidents, but the fact that a handful of recent crimes have been so brazen in nature — usually involving groups of juveniles,” Mr. Stessel said.

He said the assaults aren’t indicative of the larger trend of decreasing violent crime on subway trains and in stations. Part I crime, which includes homicides, assaults and robberies, was lower in 2015 than in previous years, he said.

“The fact is that Part I crime on Metro last year was the second lowest it’s been since 2007,” Mr. Stessel said.

In 2015, violent crime was down 28 percent from 2010 and 23 percent from 2013, according to Metro statistics. Part I crime was up in 2015 compared to 2014, but Mr. Stessell attributed that to “an exceptionally low year.”

Metro saw a 5 percent increase in Part I crimes in 2015 over 2014 levels.

Metro Transit Police have put out four advisories over the last few weeks seeking information on suspects in assaults and robberies on trains and in stations along the Red, Yellow and Green lines.

Two of those advisories show photos of groups of youths who Metro police are trying to identify in connection with a Dec. 21 aggravated assault on the Red Line at the NoMa-Gallaudet station and a Jan. 1 assault and robbery on the Yellow Line at the Mount Vernon Square station.

The other two advisories were released as attempts to identify individual suspects. One is for a man in connection with a Jan. 5 robbery at the U Street station, and the other is for a different man involved in a Dec. 27 assault and battery at the Pentagon City station.

Mr. Stessel said detectives are working on the most recent cases, but noted that many of them involve juvenile suspects and it takes additional time to obtain the juvenile equivalent of an arrest warrant.

Metro has increased investigative resources and adjusted patrols, Mr. Stessel said. The transit system also is working with the Metropolitan Police Department, school resource officers, and the D.C. Office of Attorney General to bring closure to the cases.

The cameras that blanket the Metro system also have played a role.

“These systems have been instrumental in identifying persons of interest and successfully prosecuting criminals,” Mr. Stessel said.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has proposed stricter penalties for those convicted of violent crimes on Metro trains and buses. Under her bill, perpetrators would face 50 percent more jail time and 50 percent more in fines.

• Ryan M. McDermott can be reached at rmcdermott@washingtontimes.com.

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