Metro Transit authorities are transitioning to a new private security contract inside the downtown transit tunnel following a January 28 assault at Westlake Station. The assault, which left one girl beaten while Security guards watched, apparently doing nothing to intervene as court records indicate, has prompted the Metropolitan King County Council’s Environment and Transportation Committee to revise its transit tunnel safety measures.

“By adding armed Sheriff’s deputies and Seattle Police officers, we are reassuring the public that the transit tunnels are safe and the actions at the Westlake Station will not be tolerated,” said King County Council Vice Chair Jane Hague.

In response to the assault, the committee asked Metro Transit Police Chief Dave Jutilla to brief the committee about security measures in place to keep passengers and transit operators safe.

Major Jutilla reported that Metro has been supplementing its 68 Transit Police officers with private security. Operator assaults are given high priority for transit police resources and that Metro reported an average of 15 operator assaults—ranging from spitting to any unwanted contact per month in 2009. Of those assaults, less than two per month were serious assaults on operators.

On average, Metro Transit Police made 275 arrests and issued 130 suspensions per month in 2009. Suspensions prohibit a person from using the transit system for a specified amount of time (violating a suspension can result in a trespassing charge). In 2009, roughly 50,000 riders used the tunnel each weekday, and 19 crimes against persons—including 4 aggravated assaults—were reported and investigated by Transit Police, resulting in 6 arrests.