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St. Louis County Council votes to withhold Metro money

In move that St. Louis County Executive Sam Page had threatened for over a month, the County Council approved a measure on Oct. 8 to partially fund the county’s obligation to the Bi-State Development Board.

The board is responsible for the governance of the Metro system, and Page has decried on numerous occasions the lack of progress by the board to address crime on Metro.

The council’s vote will have St. Louis County hold back more than $60 million of scheduled funding for the Bi-State Development Board. That portion makes up approximately one-third of the county’s overall annual funding for Metro and is intended to send a clear signal to the board.

Council member Mark Harder [R-District 7] was the lone dissident vote. Harder explained that he voted in the negative because he didn’t believe the measure “went far enough” in withholding funds from the board.

Three law enforcement agencies share the responsibility of public safety on Metro vehicles and across Metro properties. The St. Louis County, St. Louis City and St. Clair County [Illinios] police departments each contribute officers to the effort. They are supplemented by private security officers employed directly by Metro.

Whether the main problem is a lack of resources, a lack of effective coordination or both, crime rates across Metro have risen dramatically over the past several years.

A study completed earlier this year by NY-based WSP USA, Inc. noted the overall lack of coordination in law enforcement efforts on Metro. The report also cited a “competitive” rather than cooperative attitude among Metro security employees when required to work with local law enforcement.

Page has recently proposed having the St. Louis County Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Jon Belmar, take command of all Metro-related law enforcement activities on the Missouri side of the river. That idea was met with resistance from St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson.

In an Op-Ed article published by the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” on Oct. 7, Page reiterated the merits of his proposal to bring public safety on Metro under the umbrella of the St. Louis County Police Department.

“Under my proposal, more police officers will be patrolling the system, both trains and stations, within the county and city. The boost in law enforcement presence will provide additional safety for county residents as they ride MetroLink into the city,” Page wrote.

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