Security Incident Prompted Concern About Metrorail Safety

It was June 15, 2016 at 5:23 p.m.

Metrorail car 187 was an express train heading south toward Dadeland.

Riders wanted to report a man who they say was acting out of control.

“He just punched a hole in the glass of the door and he’s kicking it,” one caller said.

“You guys are going to need security at Dadeland North,” said another call. “Some guy just kicked out the window.”

Nicole Sauceda and a friend were on the train and also tried to call the Metrorail emergency line.

“It rang about seven or eight times, no one answered,” Sauceda said. “She hung up, tried again, same thing.”

Her friend had recently downloaded the newly released Transit Watch App and tried to contact authorities that way.

“After about ten questions, she gave up because it wasn’t getting her anywhere,” Saucedo said.

Soon the train reached the Dadeland North station, Sauceda says the man ran off.

Gus Arango, a friend of Nicole Sauceda, says she notified him a year ago about a similar incident on the train.

“I’m starting to feel very unsafe,” she said.

So he first called the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation. 

“They said that there was a system they were working on, that they are going to look into it,” Arango said. 

But when the new incident happened again, he and Nicole reached out to the NBC6 Investigators.

The county’s Department of Transportation provided the number of security incidents in the past year. There were over 5,000 incidents reported with nearly 25 percent for people having to be removed from the trains.

Alice Bravo, Director of the Department of Transportation and Public Works, explained why she believes no one answered the phone when Sauceda and her friend tried to call.

“In that particular incident, no one was picking up because our call takers were actually taking a call from somebody else reporting the very same incident,” Bravo said during a tour of the call center where emergency hotline calls are answered.

Three people were working during the time of the tour. They explained they are in charge of answering phones, responding to the app and calling security forces and/or police for help.

Another rider says she’d feel better if the emergency hotline was posted in bigger, bolder letters on the train. She complained it’s not always visible when the train is crowded.

“I don’t see it when I’m in a crowd,” Eliana Larrauri said. “I would like to have it huge above the window in red numbers.”

Bravo called that a good idea and that the department are discussing adding the number to new digital display boards that will be on new trains being added soon.

As for the transit watch app, Bravo says the department is simplifying it.

“At the very top of the pull down menu, we added a line that basically says ‘Emergency Now,” she said.

Bravo says no one has to fill out a series of fields to submit a complaint in an emergency. An operator will get your complain in a chat session. Bravo says they’ve gotten about 600 reports via the app since it launched in April.

She also says the department added over 100,000 hours for the private security contractor in addition to undercover personnel that work on the trains and at stations.

Bravo welcomed other comments about security for the two million people who ride the Metrorail and Metromover every month.

“We want everyone to feel safe and a big part of that is people letting us know when they’re uncomfortable so we can address the situations,” she said.

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