East vs. west in St. Louis squabble over MetroLink security

St. Clair County Sheriff responds to jab from St. Louis County Executive.

Michael Calhoun
September 09, 2019 - 10:45 am

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KMOX) - There's a lot of talk about how to secure MetroLink. One Sheriff says simply showing up makes all the difference.

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson says visibility of authority makes people feel safer. He says his deputies are often sticking with Illinois riders across the river until they get off the train in Missouri.

His deputies can't make arrests or write tickets in St. Louis, although that's being pursued. But they can still provide peace of mind.

That commitment began as a request, he says, from Metro customers.

"They would ask our people, 'could you ride with me over to Laclede's Landing or a couple of stops in' if they're going to the doctor or whatever," Watson said. "I thought it was a great idea."

But we just heard the opposite last week from St. Louis County Executive Sam Page:

Page is offended at a governance change giving St. Clair County more seats than St. Louis County on the Bi-State board, which runs Metro Transit.

Watson bristles at the suggestion that his department hasn't done much to secure the light rail line.

His message for Page: "He probably needs to talk to our riders to see what we've done. Those are the people who give us the scorecard."

Sheriff Watson adds that his deputies are always moving, even canvassing cars in the parking lot. He says they secure vehicles left unlocked and leave a yellow informational card for the owner.

"There is not a night or day that our people work on the trains and that people don't thank them for being there, and being visible, and being helpful, and talking to people," Watson said. "It's the little things, it's not the big things."

St. Louis County Council members hold their own hearing on Metro security at 2 p.m. Tuesday.