Is Metro Taking Sexual Harassment Seriously?

posted in: WMATA | 3

Republished with permission from Unsuck DC Metro.

Metro’s much ballyhooed efforts to curb sexual harassment got a lot of press, but it would appear there’s still a lot of work to be done to live up to the hype.

From Laura who wrote the following to the Kojo Nnamdi show during Metro GM Richard Sarles’ January 14, 2013 appearance on the show:

I reported being groped at the Capitol Heights Metro station on Dec. 21. I contacted the Metro police, and they arrived 30 minutes later. I filed a report. About a week later, I received a phone call from an investigating officer who reviewed camera footage at the wrong time of day. The incident occurred at 8:10 p.m., but for some reason, the officer reviewed footage at 8:10 a.m. I told the officer this but have heard nothing since.

Here are my concerns:

Responding officers were only able to arrive by Metro car, which delayed response.

When officers are on the Metro train, they are sometimes completely incommunicado due to lack of radio coverage. That means an officer might be on his own on a car, without the ability to call for backup.

There appears to be a bureaucratic delay in reviewing camera footage.

Signs on Metro cars give a false sense of security that groping and inappropriate behavior will be dealt with.

WMATA PSA urging riders to report sexual harassment. CASS worked with WMATA to implement the PSAs in 2012.

On the air, Sarles reassured her that something would be done.It took a further nine days–until Jan. 23–before anyone got back to Laura. Now, more than a month has gone by since Laura was groped.

I asked Laura if it was fair to say it took Metro over a month to take this case seriously.

She said:

Yes. I think so. However, I don’t at all fault any of the officers I’ve dealt with.

Based on the signs in the Metro cars, it looks like Metro leadership/marketing want to give the impression that they take groping seriously. But yet, they clearly don’t have the resources to deal with it. The night of this incident, I think there was some type of shooting (I overheard it on the officers’ radio), and that’s certainly a higher priority. I don’t think they have enough resources. But if women don’t feel safe on the Metro, that’s one more reason to drive instead.

For what it’s worth, the perv in question was wearing a FedEx jacket – looked like it could have been an employee jacket. The whole groping thing happened right by a camera.


This story sheds light on how WMATA and the MTPD need to improve their responses to sexual harassment and assault on the Metro system. In order to facilitate this process, we strongly encourage bystanders and victims to report crimes to WMATA and the MTPD. The more we take these crimes seriously, the more WMATA and the MTPD cannot ignore the complaints. Please report online and on the phone;; 202-962-2121. If Transit Police do not respond, please inform CASS with a tweet @SafeSpacesDC, send us an mail at, or submit anonymously.

3 Responses

  1. D

    I had a lot of faith in this program, so it’s disappointing to hear that Metro’s providing subpar service for this.

    • Kim

      “… that’s more one reason to drive instead.”

      That’s pretty dismissive advice. What if you don’t have a car?!?

      • D

        Who are you replying to? I didn’t make any comment about driving. I see the comment in the piece that you’re referring to, but that wasn’t someone giving advice, it was the woman who was groped talking about how Metro’s lack of action made her frustrated to the point of considering driving.