Teens Attack Off-Duty TSA Agent on Blue Line LRT Train

Metro Transit LRT has been implicated for months as a contributing factor to violent crime across the metro.

Light Rail

A 67-year-old man was attacked by a group of teens aboard a Metro Transit Blue Line light rail transit train on Monday. The report is the latest incident confirmed by officials in a streak of reports of transit related violence.

The victim is a Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) agent who was on his way home from work at MSP Airport when a group of eight teens started acting rowdy on the northbound LRT train at 46th Street just after 10:30 p.m., according to a report.

One of the teens reportedly grabbed the man’s hair and a scuffle ensued inside the train. The victim told the teen to “keep your hands off me” and used a racial slur. The police report noted that the victim said he regretted using the slur.

Details from the police report said the altercation continued and that the victim was pushed, shoved and hit in the head seven to eight times resulting in lacerations on his head, but he declined medical attention.

A Metro Transit spokesperson said that as of Friday night no arrests had been made in the incident.

INCREASE IN VIOLENT INCIDENTS

The report comes on the heels of other recent reports of increased assaults at LRT stations and public transit related violence. A teenage girl was reportedly attacked on Tuesday aboard a Metro Transit bus in South St. Paul, and 75-year-old Shirwa Hassan Jibril was killed earlier in November near the Chicago Lake Transit Center after he was brutally attacked following a verbal altercation on a bus.

Police scanner incident reporting pages on social media have also had recent reports of transit related assaults including a report of an assault on a bus driver on Friday evening near Franklin Avenue and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. A week prior there were two early evening reports just minutes apart, one involving of a person with a knife on board the LRT near the University of Minnesota campus, and a report of an assault at an LRT station in downtown Minneapolis.

Metro Transit LRT has been implicated for months as a contributing factor to violent crime across the metro. As recently as November, a report about open air drug dealing and related violence in downtown St. Paul had a spokesperson from the company that owns many of the buildings and skyways in downtown linking the activity to the nearby transit hub. 

PROPOSED SOLUTIONS

Transportation committees in the legislature were briefed late last year by Metro Transit law enforcement officials about crime statistics involving the agency’s bus and rail lines following an upward trend in transit related violent crime, which prompted a corresponding crime data request by Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska). Torkelson said during the briefing that he’d received complaints from transit users that they don’t feel safe while riding the train or bus and he called for solutions

Torkelson also noted in his comments during the 2018 briefing that Metro Transit was less than forthcoming in making crime data and incident information available to the public. Former Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington replied in agreement with the concern, and said the agency was working on being more transparent and working to make crime statistics and other information available online.

Yet, over a year later, Metro Transit crime statistics and up-to-date crime incident information do not appear to be available or accessible online on Metro Transit’s website. At the same time, the Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Transit, plans to ask the legislature for more money to fund additional officers, according to a report published on Saturday.

Current Metro Transit Police Chief Eddie Frizell indicated in the new report, however, that police are not the complete answer. “We can’t police our way out of all these different issues,” he said, referring to the substantially increased crime statistics as well as fare evasion. Frizell said he needs to balance the needs of passengers who may not want more police presence with the needs of the business community that is concerned about safety on public transportation. Frizell said he supports the idea of uniformed but unarmed “transit ambassadors” to check fares and aid with passenger safety.

Another report last month stated that legislators outside the urban core are again raising concerns about urban crime. Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt of Zimmerman called on urban Democrats, who hold all of the legislative seats within Minneapolis and St. Paul, to get tough on urban crime. Daudt said that people visiting the city for sports events should not have to worry about being attacked or mugged in broad daylight. Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka of Nisswa suggested examining state Local Government Aid (LGA) allocations to ensure the money is going toward public safety.

Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-59), whose district includes the core of downtown Minneapolis where both the Blue Line and Green Line trains run, pushed back on their concerns and accused them of playing politics for the 2020 elections when all 201 legislative seats will be up for grabs. Champion said in the report that city leaders are in the best position to address crime, not legislators from different parts of the state.

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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota.