Metro Transit Police Chief: Sex crimes on Metro should carry enhanced penalties

Metro Transit Police are calling for harsher penalties for sex offenders on Metro.

Arresting sex offenders is one thing, but prosecuting criminals is another matter. Metro Transit Police told FOX 5 it is not happening at the rate it should.

On Thursday, police announced seven arrests this month for indecent exposure or misdemeanor sexual abuse on Metro. Most recently, police took 31-year-old Laphonso Terrel Davis into custody after several public tips came in following FOX 5's report. Davis was wanted for two alleged incidents.

"It's pretty safe to say on anywhere on Metrorail, we're going to catch you," said Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik.

Officers cross-referenced the photo they got on their tip line with surveillance video from a sex assault report on Aug. 17. It was a match.

"We're always looking for ways to increase that technology, share that technology so that we can apprehend individuals like this," added Pavlik.

According to Metro, on any given railcar, eight cameras are watching passengers. Representatives with the transit system estimate there are 50 to 100 cameras on the platform at any given stop. Along with public tips, catching the criminals is often just a matter of time, Pavlik said.

But the real challenge is keeping them away.

"In all three of our jurisdictions in which we police in, it's only a misdemeanor," said Pavlik.

He is speaking about indecent exposure and lewd acts on Metro, which in the eyes of the law is viewed the same as someone drunkenly urinating in an alley. Those arrested are often booked and released the same day - able to possibly victimize again.

For that reason, Pavlik wants to see an enhanced penalty for sexually deviant acts on the public transit system where the victim can't get away.

"In a railcar or on a bus, you have a confined space, a confined environment," he explained.

Most recently, D.C. made it a felony to assault Metro bus drivers. There are also a number of enhanced penalties for other vulnerable groups.

"It's similar to the elderly community, who has an enhanced penalty if you assault a senior citizen," Pavlik said. "Same thing for people with special needs. So there is all kinds of enhanced penalties out there. This is something that could perhaps be added to that list."

An enhanced penalty for indecent exposure and lewd acts on Metro would make it a felony and carry jail time.

But what would it take to make such a change?

"We need everyone pushing for the change," Chief Pavlik said.

That means lobbying by Metro and citizens putting pressure on their local representatives to draft legislation.

The good news in all of this - Metro Transit Police said indecent exposure cases are down nearly 10 percent from 2017. There have so far been 63 reports this year compared to 70 this same time last year. The agency also said serious crime on Metro is down 18 percent from last year when it hit a 10-year low.