City sheriff's deputies this week will begin providing security on MetroLink trains in St. Louis as part of an expansion of an agreement with the region's light rail system that put deputies at some transit centers earlier this year.
Bi-State Development CEO Taulby Roach and St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts announced the agreement Tuesday to enlist 42 deputies to work part-time security shifts on Metro's two lines within city limits.
Deputies working in pairs on Metro's red and blue lines will be paid by Metro on shifts outside their regular hours providing security at the two downtown St. Louis courthouses and the juvenile court near the Grand Center Arts District.
"One thing the public demanded is for better collaborations and better partnerships like this one," Roach said Tuesday. "So our folks, the Metro folks, will be concentrating more on fares and checking fares, telling people 'Good morning,' trying to create situations where they have a more comfortable ride. But then when we get to professional policing, we rely on the folks who are properly trained and properly in uniform for that. And you're going to see both."
Roach said Metro's budget already covers the cost of training and employing off-duty sheriff's deputies but he wouldn't say how much the agency will allocate toward the effort. A spokeswoman for Metro said deputies will be paid $33 per hour.
The plan to put deputies on trains expands an agreement with Metro last year that has deputies posted at the Civic Center station off 14th and Spruce streets, and at the Forest Park-DeBaliviere and the Delmar Loop stations. The transit agency last year announced contracts with St. Louis County police and St. Clair County sheriff's deputies for MetroLink patrols in St. Louis and St. Clair counties.
Bi-State also approved a multi-year $28.5 million contract with G4 Security Solutions to take over security operations beginning in February.
Sheriff Betts said Tuesday the authority to make arrests on MetroLink trains rests with city police. He said deputies will detain people suspected of crimes on trains but turn over those people to St. Louis police.
"I think the St. Louis Sheriff's Department can be that one partner with MetroLink to bring the safety and security to our MetroLink system," Betts said.
Using deputies on trains won't detract from security at St. Louis courthouses because the deputies will be off-duty from their primary jobs, Betts said.
Roach said crime on MetroLink has declined as a result of security improvements along the transit system.
"There's no question that public perception is also part of it," he said. "And also the reality of just being vigilant every single day. We are never going to be through with safety and security on MetroLink. It should be a focus of ours every single day. We can always get better."
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH