Feds deny MARTA funding despite crime increase

by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:

Loading

WASHINGTON - Channel 2 Action News has learned MARTA reached out to officials in Washington, D.C. for help and money to combat a surge in crimes by young people on the rails and on their buses, but MARTA was rejected.

Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane has learned the transit system is facing higher hurdles getting help from the feds.

MacFarlane spotted the red flag in a filing MARTA made with the U.S. Justice Department in 2011.

The transit system reported 10 percent surges each year in nonviolent crime by young people riding the system.

Larceny, so-called "social disorder," and passengers who don't pay their fares were among the offenses.

MARTA asked the federal government for $982,450 to help hire five additional police officers in 2011, but received nothing.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice told MacFarlane that  MARTA's application was seriously considered but MARTA didn't show enough economic data.

MARTA said it has nevertheless made progress since reducing youth crimes, in part, by installing new surveillance cameras on its buses.

"We'll have over 425 buses outfitted with our cameras.  We've already seen a 49 percent reduction in criminal activity on (some) buses," said Sgt. Aston Greene with the MARTA Police Department.

Similar cameras will soon be installed on MARTA subway trains thanks to a separate pot of federal grant money.

But squeezing security money out of Washington will only be more difficult. The Department of Justice is again chopping the money it gives local police agencies, MARTA included.

The Department of Justice had budgeted $302 million for "police hiring" grants in 2012.  But the agency is requesting just $91 million this year because of the budget crisis.

Former police chief Jim Bueermann from California represents police agencies nationwide and said departments will suffer because of it.

"With fewer cops, you're just logically going to be more at risk on the street," Bueermann said.

Which means MARTA police, like so many other agencies, will have to keep a close eye not just on the trains and buses, but on their budget too.