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Federal Way Transit Center: Joint policing plan intended to reduce crime, increase safety
Beginning next month, an agreement between local police, Sound Transit and King County Metro is expected to provide long-term heightened security at the Federal Way Transit Center.
In the past, security at the transportation hub has been a complicated issue. The center is at 31621 23rd Ave. S. in Federal Way. Sound Transit owns the facility. King County Metro and Sound Transit operate there. Several high-profile cases, including homicides and assaults, have taken place at the transit center in recent years. The incidents, in part, spurred the joint policing agreement.
"We want that place to be safe and stay safe," Federal Way police Cmdr. Stan McCall said.
Starting Nov. 2, Sound Transit police will be on duty at the center 50 hours a week, from 2 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday. Staff with Securitas, the private security company contracted by Sound Transit, will remain on duty at all times and will also patrol the parking lot.
"That's a big jump from our previous staffing levels," Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said. "You're going to see a stronger presence down there from now on."
Federal Way police will continue to frequent the center at random times throughout the weekdays. The force will also offer coverage on weekends. A six-person special operations team of primarily officers on bicycles and dual-sport motorbikes will take on the task of fighting crime at the transit center, as well as in the downtown core, Federal Way police Cmdr. Chris Norman said.
Bicycles and motorbikes allow more interaction with the public, he said. They are also more discreet and offer better maneuverability around the dense downtown area, Norman said.
King County Metro police will conduct emphasis patrols and undercover operations at least once per month for six consecutive months. The cooperative policing agreement is a one-year pilot plan.
"We've really come together, agreed to cooperate," said Andy Hwang, Federal Way interim police chief.
Sound Transit and FW police
The transit center opened in 2006. There has been cooperation between Sound Transit and Federal Way to patrol the center, but never has such a concrete plan been in place to detail the days and times each of the agencies will provide policing, Hwang said. The former plan consisted of random and frequent patrols by both agencies, he said.
Sound Transit contracted with the private company Securitas to provide security at the transit center when it first opened, Gray said. It also worked closely with Federal Way police. This is the model Sound Transit has adopted at all its transit centers, he said.
In spring 2008, Sound Transit gave Federal Way police one-time funding to cover overtime pay for extra patrols to assist security staff at the center, Gray said. This past April, Sound Transit created its own police force, comprised of contracted King County Sheriff deputies, to cover several of the regional transportation hubs it operates, including Federal Way's facility. Securitas staff remain in place. Federal Way continues periodic patrols of the center.
Sound Transit police regularly frequent the center, Gray said. The agency does not give the specific days and times the agency's police are on duty, he said. The ambiguity of when Sound Transit patrols will be present makes it difficult for Federal Way to provide a consistent presence at the transit center, Federal Way police officers said. Sound Transit has not provided Federal Way a schedule of its patrols, McCall said.
"We never really knew when (Sound Transit police) would be there or not," Norman said.
Once the joint policing plan kicks in, the police agency on duty at the time will handle all minor criminal issues and complaints. In any significant event, such as a shooting or stabbing, Federal Way officers will respond and take charge of the investigation, McCall said.
Other features of the policing plan include: The installation of high-resolution cameras, the playing of classical music over a loud speaker system, signs and stickers indicating the presence of police and video surveillance, a portable radio for Sound Transit police to directly contact Federal Way police, and access by Federal Way police to the substation on the transportation platform, where patrons wait for buses.
Federal Way is the only city Sound Transit has engaged with in a joint policing plan to cover a transportation center, Gray said.
"We are seeing we're needing to do more in Federal Way," he said.