Text Messaging for Washington, D.C., Crime Watchers?

Police consider new method for Metrorail riders to report incidents.    

by / September 18, 2008

Bus riders and Metrorail subway passengers in Washington, D.C., could soon have another option for reporting incidents to Metro Transit Police: text messaging. Train passengers often complain of being too intimidated by rowdy teenagers to report juvenile crimes via phone calls. Text messaging could provide a stealthier way to alert police.

Passengers with either BlackBerrys or Verizon cell phones would be the first riders able to text message crime reports. Verizon is the only cell phone provider offering service underground in the nation's capital. BlackBerrys also work underground because they operate on a proprietary network. If the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) pursues the idea, staffers would do a trial run to explore how the process would work.

"It is not at all intended to be the primary means by which people communicate with the police department, but it would be another option. It's something that is already being done at other police agencies across the country," said Lisa Farbstein, WMATA spokeswoman.

Metro Police have no idea yet how they would roll out this project because it's still in the discussion stage, Farbstein said. Whether or not WMATA makes the option available to passengers will depend on the findings of the employees-only pilot program.

Photo Chris Metcalf. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic



Andy Opsahl

Andy Opsahl is a former writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.