Crime, Transportation

Sound Transit: Ten on-Train Robberies in January; Three Arrests

SEATTLE – Sound Transit says there were ten on-train robberies last month, with most of them occurring in the Rainier Valley and involving teenagers snatching phones and other electronic devices from riders as trains came to a stop at the stations.

The announcement comes less than two months after Seattle Police warned of robbers targeting victims near bus stops and Light Rail stations who were distracted by phones or iPods.

“Some of the hotspots for this activity have been near the Mount Baker Light Rail Station, the Columbia City Light Rail Station, the area of Martin Luther King Jr. Way S & S Othello Street, and the area of Rainier Ave S & S Henderson Street,” read a community bulletin from South Precinct Commander Captain Michael Nolan and Crime Prevention Coordinator Mark Solomon.

At the time, Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said the agency had not seen reports of issues at light rail stations or on the trains.

Shortly thereafter, he revised Sound Transit’s response to include the report of a November robbery aboard a train that had just pulled into Columbia City station. He said a woman was sitting on the train when a young black male grabbed her phone and ran out the open doors.

“All riders are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings and guard against having valuable electronics easily taken from their hands,” said Gray. “These expensive compact devices have become a favorite target of opportunistic thieves who take advantage of riders who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.”

He added that police recently arrested three suspects they believe are responsible for at least some of the robberies and that additional arrests are pending.

Sound Transit light rail trains and platforms are equipped with surveillance cameras as well as emergency call buttons on the trains and platforms. Uniformed and non-uniformed police, security guards and fare enforcement officers also regularly patrol the trains and platforms.

Photo/Rainier Valley Post

45 comments on “Sound Transit: Ten on-Train Robberies in January; Three Arrests

  1. It’s a bit off topic, but I want to take a moment to rave about all of the folks who were incredibly helpful to a stranger who broke her wrist at the Rainier Beach light rail station this morning.

    The woman walking in front of me slipped on the sidewalk and fell, and broke her wrist in the process. Everyone who walked by stopped to check if she was okay. I helped get her situated on a bench and called her daughter to come drive her to the hospital. In the meantime another kind gentleman called 911 and asked the paramedics to come check her out.

    Engine 33 was prompt and helpful and appropriate, and the light rail staff showed up quickly too and put in a call to HQ to go over the video tape of the incident and make sure there wasn’t anything problematic going on.

    The concern and offers of help expressed came from a wide range of people, which was especially sweet to see given the racial divide I sometimes feel at work in our community. Nice job folks, keep it up!

  2. I used to let young chaps use my phone back in the day if they needed to make a phone call. The game has certainly changed……

  3. I see security at Beacon Hill station & all through the tunnel, but have never seen anyone in any of the open air stations. Didn’t even think of it until just now.

  4. Maybe the lightrail could have a small jail-caboose car added to it, and then we could see the perprators glumly staring out between the bars as the Seattle skyline whizzed by them.

  5. @Bruce Gray: Thanks for the link. Is there really more info over there though, or are you just trying to call our attention to the way Erica Barnett minimizes violent crime and mocks neighbors who come together to help make their own streets safer?

    The truth is, Erica’s assertions are not supported by what Cpt. Mike Nolan of the South Precinct just told a packed house of neighbors at Lakewood Seward Park Community Club. In fact, he said exactly the OPPOSITE.

  6. @ Bruce Gray, can you help the Rainier Valley citizens out and include the RVP on your press release/ alert mail list and cc: Seattle Times. I don’t read Publicola much and it’s editor does not represent the views of Rainier Valley residents. It would be a good idea to post “Rider Alerts” at the stops regarding safety issues. The more exposure of these crimes would actually benefit the community surrounding light rail.

  7. Bruce Gray is the same Sound Transit employee who made statements to the press that light rail noise was not an issue for residents of the Valley, at the same time the FTA had determined there were areas above the allowable limit. I am asking Sound Transit officials to get real with us so that we can try to resolve and/or mitigate some of these issues such as the violence at/near the stations together and as effectively as possible.

  8. @justica, That’s why we put out the notice to media and riders about the spike of phone grabs on the trains – so folks keep in mind how to stay safer on and around our trains. Our police have been and will continue to work very closely with SPD to keep our neighborhood as safe as possible. We’ve made some good headway, but there’s always more to do.

  9. Easy on the gripes about Bruce Gray, guys. In his role as spokesman for Sound Transit, his job is to disseminate information and liaise with the community. Unfortunately he doesn’t have the power to increase police presence or eliminate all crime. He also lives in the neighborhood and is as concerned about safety as the rest of us.

    I’m with you on the tone of Erica Barnett though. Is the current “hand-wringing” in the community necessary? I would say – given the number of assaults/home break-ins/robberies – YES. It’s not just phone snatchings we are dealing with.

  10. I am curious…
    Does the fact that the stations seeing the spike in crime are above ground make them more vulnerable? Is it easier for a perp to dash off into a crowd, waiting car, down a street, etc., than it would be if they first had to get out of an underground station? It seems logical to me, but I’m no criminal expert.
    Are there stats that compare this type of crime—grab and dash—for above-ground and underground stations?

  11. I agree with Justicia. People need to start being straight with us about what’s going on.

  12. Erica doesn’t want to scare anyone away from transit—esp. LR. She did not point out that the police recently advised us not to carry backpacks, briefcases, gym bags or purses on transit. That makes transit so convenient!

  13. No one is suggesting that Bruce Gray is responsible for increasing police presence or eliminating all crime. But as SusanH pointed out, he is responsible for disseminating information to the community that Sound Transit serves, and that doesn’t appear to be happening. At least not in a way that resembles what SPD is saying. That’s all.

  14. I thought the police did a good job of updating the community about recent rail thefts at the meeting last night. The perps are groups of younger folks (including 14 year olds!) working together. Arrests have been made and they are working on identifying other suspects. Police said to not use electronic devices while on rail and don’t get off the car if you think someone is casing you out.

    I hope there will be a separate thread about the community meeting. It was a very good start with hopefully more meetings in the near future. There is a community walk with police scheduled next week I think in the Rainier Beach area. I was impressed overall with the police information and response. The mayor’s office was also represented last night. Impressive turnout.

  15. “Police said to not use electronic devices while on rail and don’t get off the car if you think someone is casing you out.”

    Yeah, because the next stop is only a mile or two away.

    I still have not ridden the light rail, and definitely am not planning on it.

  16. It’s understandable not to use expensive electronics, but the cops recommend not to bring bags on trains and to miss stops? If that’s the case, maybe a public boycott of the light rail is the next step if nothing improves or happens. Of course, this is only an option for those that are able to drive.

    What’s the point of transit if you can bring your gear and material, etc., with you? I’ll make sure to never ride LR. It’s not worth the cost savings to risk becoming another violent crime stat. Sorry, Bike McGinn et. al.

    Also, don’t bother wasting you time with the drivel on Publicola. What a garbage opinionated blog that is. Anonymous should do a DOS bombing of that site for the pubic good. j/k

  17. True, if you boycott the light rail it’s not like boycotting another business that can pull out of the neighborhood (I’m taking my ball and going home). They might actually have to sit down and think about why people are no longer riding the magic choo choo.

  18. I think a boycott is an excellent idea.

    Want me to ride it? You gotta protect me first….

    That’s what she said!!!

    Sorry :)

  19. “Want me to ride it? You gotta protect me first….

    That’s what she said!!!”


    You sure we aren’t related?

  20. Mark B: Why not try to ride light rail before supporting a boycott proposal? I use light rail every day, and based on my experiences, consider it to be equal or better in safety than the bus alternatives.

    I find the problem to be actually -getting- to the light rail. To do so, I have to walk down Henderson from Seward Park Ave at 7:00am and back at 6:30pm. During the winter months, it’s dark and not exactly a cheerful, safe feeling walk. In the summer months, it’s worse in the evenings, with mommy’s little monsters hanging around Rainier & Henderson.

    I would LOVE (can’t emphasize that enough) to have a pair of beat or bike cops strolling or pedaling down Henderson, at least during commuter hours. Back and forth from Seward Park Ave to MLK Jr, lingering around Rainier, doing the occasional detour to Cloverdale. Please, SPD? Please?

  21. @NickS
    I have not tried it because I have no reason to. It does not go where I am going.

    I quit spending money downtown years ago so I have no reason there, it is actually cheaper to pay $20.00 to park right across and have the ability to tailgate for the Sounders games which is the only reason I go downtown.

    The other direction is the airport and seeing as I barely ever fly I won’t be using it for that either.

    The only money I really spend in Seattle is on groceries so I won’t be using it there either.

    So I choose not to spend money in Seattle and I choose not use the light rail.

  22. @NickS: I agree that a boycott is silly. I’ve ridden the light rail countless times with my little kids and have never felt at all threatened. (Granted, I’m not returning to my Rainier Beach station at night, so that might make me more wary).

    And I so appreciate that you offer a solution, instead of just complaining. Beat cops on bikes would be a great deterrent, I think. It would help that whole Rainier/Henderson corridor just to have a visible police presence.

  23. @Nick S. Saying the light rail is, “equal or better in safety than the bus alternatives” is not reassuring. A choice between very dangerous and very dangerous – wonderful.

  24. @Chris, true. Busses can be sketchy too. But no one is calling for a boycott of all busses. And I don’t think either are “very dangerous”.

  25. Tasha and Mark are cracking my sh*t UP!!!! quit it, i’m trying to be grouchy about life!!! how’my suppose to do that with the two of you making me laugh?? stop, just stop!

  26. I’m just venting frustration because I appreciate that transit options have been improving when, or if, you don’t need personally owned transport; it wasn’t long ago that all we had were expensive but fast taxi cabs and Metro buses. A train adds quite a bit to a metropolitan area.

    A well organized boycott is the equivalent of a nuclear attack, don’t do it at all unless you absolutely have to, as a means of last resort. Sentiment has to be in a really bad place for this to be effective anyway, not everyone would agree to such a boycott.

  27. boycott have you ridden a bus lately? i rode one on Saturday had to listen to someones rap all the way downtown and also had to listen to it on the way back home! The bus was packed and this was a Saturday, standing room only! I don’t take the lr because I would have to walk to Othello St. ( four blocks city blocks) catch a 39 bus, pay for the bus and then pay for the damn train to go elsewhere. Othello St. is not a choice area to stand and wait for a bus (too many thugs) So you think transit options are improving? I think not!!!!!!!

  28. Boycott or no boycott really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, ridership is not very high. But if crime keeps escalating on the train and off, ridership will be close to zero. I predict when it extends to Capitol Hill, there will be more riff raff. They will have to deal with a violatile transient population.
    Lastly, I’ve taken the light rail Downtown several times and to the airport and it’s wonderful, can’t avoid taking baggage tho, need my clean underwear.

  29. @Tasha 3.0

    “Awww look at all these new folks trying to regulate. JK

    Mark B for Mayor!”

    I was thinking straight for the presidency.
    You could be my First Lady.

    Well, maybe not my first….

  30. @angeldove: If you’re using an Orca card, you touch the card to the reader on the bus, and to the reader at the light rail station, then “tap out” when you’re exiting the light rail station. Transfers are handled automatically, and there’s no need to carry change.

    Like I said, the getting to the light rail is the hard part. I walk one mile in each direction, which for me because I’m healthy and mobile is not a big deal. If it wasn’t for the possibility of getting beaten to death for my gym bag, I’d really enjoy the walk. That said, my parents visited recently and they opted to just take the bus downtown. They’re in the 70s, and due to arthritis, the walk was a little too far and too painful (the perceived risk of being shivved for their box of Super Colon Blow may have had something to do with it too).

    Not sure what the answer is for that; maybe a shuttle that runs every 5 minutes at peak times between Rainier Ave S & MLK Jr Way S?

  31. I’m in agreement with NickS here. I ride Link every day and, personally, the Link stations and trains are not a big concern for me. Don’t be gingerly hanging onto your iPhone as you’re all distracted by it to notice who is around, and you’ll be mostly fine. Look around and hang onto that thing tightly if you take it out. Also it’s best not to be taking out all your electronics on the train and setting up office like I see some people do.

    But my biggest concern is when I cross the street from the station and walk away through the not-so-well-lit streets while all the neighbors are inside. It’s nothing to do with transit, actually. Brighton/Othello feels downright suburban quiet and deserted sometimes, which is no good for “eyes on the street” crime deterrence. I’m hoping that with increased transit and pedestrian traffic eventually, the streets will feel less deserted.

  32. Frankly, crime can happen anywhere. But, yall are over reacting….its really not even close to being dangerous. Honestly, no where in Seattle is truly dangerous. Clearly, yall have never lived in any other city. Me, coming from Detroit, its common sense to pay attention to your surroundings, make eye contact with people, and not be playing around with expensive gadgets in public. Really, if you feel that unsafe, get a permit and carry a pistol. Most of these crimes are committed with teens with nothing better to do. They all have access to decent schools and do not live in extreme poverty. As is the case for youth in Baltimore, Detroit, and New Orleans. These kids committ crimes to “prove” something, they aint hungry. Keep your head on a swivel and make eye contact. ” I see you, seeing me” and keep your damn phones in your pockets.

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