New Video Surveillance Hub Aids Transit Crime-Fighting Efforts in Nation’s Capital

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority says its $3.6 million security operations control center has proven hugely beneficial in solving crime since opening in November.

WASHINGTON – A new security operations control center (SOCC) is proving extremely useful to the Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) in solving crime across the public transportation system since opening in November, officials tell the Washington Post.

Inside the $3.6 million SOCC, security camera footage from the system’s busiest platforms is displayed on massive projector screens on the front wall. Flat-screen televisions cycle through a docket of people for whom MTPD are on the lookout. In a police bubble overlooking the floor, dispatchers and call takers log emergency complaints and text tips and feed them to officers in the system, the newspaper describes.

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The transit system in the nation’s Capital has been under scrutiny because of a litany of brazen attacks committed by groups of teenagers.

For example, six high school students were recently arrested in connection with a morning rush-hour fight at Gallery Place, in which a teenager allegedly punched a 35-year-old man getting off a train, according to a police report. Surveillance footage shows the man being slammed to the ground before the teens rush onto the train.

In the above video, six teenagers were arrested recently after a fight on the Red Line that started at Gallery Place. The fight led to delays on trains bound for Shady Grove metro during morning rush-hour. (YouTube/MetroForward)

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Genera Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld told the newspaper the new control center allows transit police to quickly act when incidents of that nature – and those on a smaller scale, such as a robbery – occur. The Digital Video Evidence Unit processed more than 6,200 requests for footage last year, drawing from thousands of security cameras placed inside and outside Metro’s 91 stations, the agency said.

“We can go back in time and find out who did what,” Wiedefeld told the Washington Post. “This system is a great tool to do that. And to know without this, it’s somebody’s memory of what they saw and that’s about it. This is proof.”

The control center’s capabilities were offered before, but not all in the same room. Whereas previously Metro’s call takers, dispatchers, detectives and video technicians were housed separately, they are now able to seamlessly communicate within the same quarters, a Metro spokesman told the newspaper.

MTPD Chief Ron Pavlik Jr. says the configuration has proven effective. He told the newspaper the SOCC was instrumental in the case involving the Gallery Place platform fight.

“When that incident went out, this team right here identified the camera that provided the best angle,” he said. “We communicated with the Rail Operations Control Center. We knew what train they were on. We had officers on there to stop that train, give a physical description (so) we can identify them.”

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