While Metro usually employs a proactive stance against violence on its trains, in light of the Aug. 6 youth-involved brawl at the Gallery Place station, several new steps have been adopted to offset recurrences, a Metro official told the AFRO this week. At the same time, Lisa Farbenstein said, the fracas that proceeded to the next stop at L’Enfant Plaza was out of the ordinary and should not be taken as the norm for young people’s behavior on the trains.
“It’s unfortunate that that one incident is tainting the reputation of all the youngsters that pass through our system,” Farbenstein said. “But we truly believe it was not indicative of youth behavior on the rail system nor do we believe it’s indicative of the majority of youth who live in the city or in the region. The majority of youngsters who pass through our system do so regularly and do so without incident.”
The altercation began around 11 p.m. – just before curfew – when a group of youth entered the rail system. Shortly thereafter, a dispute broke out among them, evolving into a fist-and-kick fest involving about 70 people. When the fracas ended – though there were no reports of any weapons used or confiscated – four people were injured and two youths and an adult were taken into custody for disorderly conduct and simple assault.
“Basically you tend to see more of this on Friday and Saturday evenings with the large crowds of youth passing through together,” Farbenstein said. “But to ensure the safety of youngsters as well as others traveling through our system, we’ve taken some new steps which have us working closer than ever with our jurisdictional partner law enforcement agencies.”
One such step is enforcing the city’s curfew. During summer months, youth ages 17 and younger in the District have to be off the streets by midnight. However, Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells is trying to get that curfew moved up to 11 p.m. for children 15 years and younger. Teens need to be home by a certain time “unless it’s got something to do with job- or church-related activities,” Wells said. “I’m focused on a new bill that I hope to introduce in September and it may be something that will give authority to the mayor to implement a curfew by zone, so it won’t come across as a blunt instrument.”
But Peaceaholics founder Ron Moten said part of the problem that occurred two weeks ago, is there aren’t enough activities in the District to keep its youth from troublesome situations. “We’ve got to have more constructive activities for our children, especially during the summer,” Moten said.
Moten also noted that his organization tried years ago to get Metro’s attention when youth violence became problematic on trains in the Anacostia area. “We gave them a proposal , but they weren’t interested in implementing preventive programs,” he said.
However, in recent months Metro’s security staff has employed higher visibility at the train stations. This weekend they joined forces with the D.C. Police Department in its “All Hands on Deck” initiative, a program that has helped deploy officers to high-crime areas during times they are most needed.
The system has also taken at least four other steps to prevent disturbances similar to the Aug. 6 mishap. They include deployment of more uniformed and plain clothes officers at train station locations to deter adverse behavior, and having officers disperse large crowds of youth entering the stations.
Metro will also continue to monitor and be on the lookout for new hotspots, such as areas near schools – like the Gallery Place neighborhood in Northwest Washington – that are popular social gathering points for youth.