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Metro takes suicide prevention steps


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Published on: Thursday, September 27, 2012

By Daryl Buchanan

ROCKVILLE -In 2012 there have been four suicides on the Metro Subway System. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) recently has begun a campaign to help prevent any more from occurring.

About three weeks ago WMATA began installing suicide prevention signs on station platforms. The signs read, “You talk. We listen. Together we survive,” the signs also provide a number to a suicide prevention hotline. That toll free number is 1-855-320-LIFE (5433). WMATA says the signs are already in 13 stations this month and the installation is an ongoing plan.

Philip Stewart, Public Information Officer for WMATA, says the goal is to have them in all 86 stations in the system. “The public awareness campaign is launching this month. Riders will see new signs inside trains and buses as well, which will be rotating around the system similar to other WMATA sponsored signs and advertisements,” said Stewart.

Stewart also says WMATA is training all rail operators and station managers on how to recognize suicidal behavior. “If a station manager recognizes suicidal behavior quickly hopefully they can get that person some help before they attempt something tragic. The goal is to have all 900 employees trained by 2013,” said Stewart.

According to Stewart WMATA looked at similar campaigns in other transit systems around the country on ways to approach the problem. Specifically, WMATA is using a program from a Toronto transit system as a model.

WMATA earlier this year also began their new online sexual harassment reporting system after reports of passengers being harassed or witnessing inappropriate behavior on the system. Stewart says the program has been successful and transit police made their first arrest through the system earlier this summer.

On July 26 Metro Transit Police arrested 48 year old Robert Scott of Capitol Heights, MD at the Reagan National Airport Station for indecent exposure. After receiving the online report officers found and detained Scott based on eye witnesses at the station.

Detectives also said Scott also was discovered to be a suspect in similar incidents reported online earlier that year and on July 25. Scott pled guilty to his charges on August 27 and was sentenced to four months in prison after some of his time was suspended.

Stewart said that reports filed in the online system will immediately go to a transit police officer for further investigation. Stewart went on to say that WMATA is pleased with the system and worked to make it convenient for the public.

“We are really pleased with how it’s been going. We realize with sexual harassment some think it is under reported. So we wanted to make a system that made filing complaints easy and anonymous. So you can file a complaint online or with a smart phone and you do not have to give any personal information,” said Stewart.

The sexual harassment online reporting tool can be found at www.wmata.com/harassment. 

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