Metra to add more police officers on trains

Metra is beefing up security by creating a special unit of six police officers whose main focus is to patrol trains.

The agency's police department is hiring additional officers and expects to expand the unit to 12 by the fall. Although the BNSF and Union Pacific railroads have their own police force, the Metra squad will do the rounds on all 11 train lines.

"They will be used on trains or in areas where we see the need, based on information from our personnel and calls for service," spokesman Michael Gillis said.

Metra has been overhauling its police force after a scathing 2014 report by outside consultants, which found, among other things, that officers rarely rode trains.

The railroad hired a new police chief and dispatched patrols on 3,500 trains in 2015 compared to 3,200 in 2014. However, the railroad runs 703 trains a weekday.

Dedicating a special unit to checking trains will boost those numbers significantly, officials said, adding that riders ranked safety as the sixth most important service attribute in a 2015 survey. The new unit will be in uniform and plain clothes.

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