Crime was up more than 30% last year on Metro Transit buses and trains, and the transit agency's police are now turning to social media to show how it's trying to beat it back.
Last week, the police opened new accounts on Facebook, Instagram and X, which is the platform formerly known as Twitter. On those channels, the agency will regularly post breaking news and information when major or critical incidents occur, much like other law enforcement agencies do. Plus, Chief Ernest Morales III will provide a weekly recap of the department's work every Friday.
"You are going to get a behind-the-scenes look at our department, meet our officers and see what we do each day to keep our public transit system safe," Morales said in his first video posted on Facebook last week.
Much of the content will focus on the stories and work of MTPD officers, who are tasked with responding to incidents across a 3,000-square-mile area covering eight counties and 85 communities in the Twin Cities area. Postings, photos and videos will showcase the officer's work, which includes everything from issuing citations to fare evaders to responding to crashes, assaults and shootings. Every day it means interacting with people who have mental health needs or addiction disorders or are facing homelessness.
"The work these men and women do is beyond commendable, and they haven't received the attention and respect they so greatly deserve," said department spokeswoman Nikki Muehlhausen. "And that's what we're hoping to change through our new social media channels."
But far from just being an outlet simply to hand out accolades, at the heart of the social media launch is the desire to have open and honest conversations, dispelling notions that officers are unaware of problems, including smoking and drug use, are .
"Among my core values are communication and transparency," Morales said in a statement to the Drive. "The community needs to be able to connect with us, and us with them. That's why Metro Transit Police is now on social media."
The MTPD can be found on Facebook, on Instagram @metrotransitpd and on X @MTPDmn.
Rice Street rebuild gets started
Motorists traveling on Rice Street in St. Paul's North End may notice crews taking down trees between Wheelock Parkway and E. Cottage Avenue. Ramsey County plans to cut down 35 trees to prepare for road construction this summer.
The tree removal is the start of a $32 million project that will remake the corridor between Wheelock and Pennsylvania Avenue. Work is starting on the north end this year and will move south in phases over the next three construction seasons, ending in 2026.
Concepts call for the aging four-lane road to be converted to one with a single travel lane in each direction separated by a shared left turn lane. Designs also call for a shared pedestrian-bike path on the west side of Rice Street and 6-foot wide sidewalk on the east.
The County is still accepting feedback about incorporating art into the project and to address concerns about impact construction will have.