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Metrorail Analysis: Crime Up, Miami Security Guard Hours Down 

Crime is on the rise aboard Miami-Dade Metrorail and Metromover at a time when the county is reducing the number of hours that security guards work to keep riders safe.

That’s according to an NBC 6 analysis of statistics. But behind those stats are real people, real victims that Jeff Burnside found. “So you were sitting where about?” asked NBC 6 reporter Jeff Burnside. “On one of those windows seats right here,” said crime victim Nick Cabrera, 17. “And next to it. And then the ones facing the window. And then he goes and he grabs my chain.” Cabrera is no statistic. Someone tried to rob him on the Metrorail pulling into Culmar station. “And then he was chasing me all around this platform,” said another teenage victim, Daniel Gomez. “And I ran all the way down to the first door on the Metrorail.” There was frustration in his eyes when he described what happened next. “Right when we stopped, one of them took my bag and the other decided to punch me in the face.” Gomez got robbed and injured on a Metrorail train pulling into the Martin Luther King, Jr. station. “I told my friend, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!'” said Gomez. “And I started running after the guy that grabbed my bag. They were trying to take my mp3 player.” Two people. Two victims. NBC 6 found that, after years of declining crime, the crime rate on the Metrorail and Metromover is now increasing. An NBC 6 analysis shows there were more assaults, robberies and batteries in the first 8 months of this year — 92 — than all of last year, 87. Guards are targets too, comprising the vast majority of assault victims this year. And NBC 6 discovered crime statistics on large transit systems nationwide such as New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and others show Miami’s rate is among the highest for serious crimes per passenger mile, according to the National Transit Data Base, a U.S. government agency. “And I was screaming,” said Gomez, “telling him to come back.” People like Gomez board the system 84,000 times a day. The chance of becoming a victim is small. Yet a serious crime now occurs an average of every 2 and a half days. “When I actually needed help, no one was here to help me,” said Cabrera. “That was terrible.” Amid this spike in crime, Miami Dade county has reduced the number of hours for security guards by 7 percent since April 2006. The security guard contractor is Wackenhut, which has been fined by Miami Dade county for having empty posts. Former security guards say Wackenhut is sometimes short-handed. “There’s a lot of these stations that are dangerous for just one officer,” said former Metrorail decurity guard Omar Rosario, who is suing Wackenhut for being fired. Wackenhut security company declined an interview but stated the system “is among the best protected transit systems in the United States.” And the public is assured “a safe and courteous commute.” It accuses NBC 6 of “maligning” its name. Security guard Chermaine Joseph-Quetel was killed last year. The county says she’s the fifth Miami Security guard killed since the system opened in 1984. “They need more guards at the stations because people are getting killed,” said 72-year-old Betty Dawkins no longer carries her purse on Metrorail. The community activist has a simple message. “Hire more security guards to meet the needs of the people.” The people spoke up earlier this month. The group Dawkins helps handed out leaflets demanding more security guards in Miami Dade. Miami-Dade Transit officials declined to speak on camera. By telephone, they said the spike in crime simply parallels more crime everywhere, and since U.S. transit systems report crime statistics differently, the Miami Dade County says comparisons are unreliable. But they acknowledge that reducing the number of Miami security guards is one of many factors that can impact the crime rate. You can contact the NBC 6 Investigative Unit by emailing producer Scott Zamost at [email protected] or Jeff Burnside at [email protected]

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