King County working to prevent sexual misconduct, harassment on public transit

SEATTLE -- King County officials on Tuesday introduced a "Report It to Stop It" campaign to try to reduce sexual misconduct and harassment incidents on Metro buses and other public transit.

Since 2013, King County documents show law enforcement investigated 225 reports of sexual misconduct incidents. However, officials say many incidents go unreported.

Carly Lincoln says she had a creepy experience on a bus with a male passenger. “I could tell he was watching me on the bus, and when I got off he followed me,” she said.

Lincoln says she ran home and locked the door behind her.

And Lincoln says this is not the only time she’s dealt with harassment. Often, she says, she has to put up with what she calls “typical catcalling."

King County officials want to make a change, and prevent all types of harassment even if some think it’s “typical.”

“This campaign isn’t going to change all of that, but what it is going to change is the way we’re thinking, and on these buses, this type of behavior is not OK,” said Mary Ellen Stone, executive director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center.

On Tuesday, Stone was joined by Metro Transit Police Maj. Dave Jutilla, and King County Metro General Manager Rob Gannon during a press conference. The three discussed plans to try to stop sexual misconduct.

Since 2013, Metro Transit Police focused resources on investigating sexual misconduct reports. Officials say anyone can be a victim.

Examples of crimes include indecent exposure, unlawful imprisonment, stalking, sexual assault (rape, indecent liberties), simple assault, groping or grabbing passengers, rubbing up against someone in a sexual manner and other harassment/threats.

Officials say it does not have to be a crime to report it. They say other incidcents to report include unwanted personal or sexual comments, behavior intended to humiliate and intimidate people, verbally or physical; aggressive staring; insulting language; crude sexual comments or gestures.

The biggest change needs to come from the community, officials say. Law enforcement will be there to respond, but victims, bystanders and witnesses must know nothing is too small to report.

Law enforcement is actively working to make the King County Metro safer. Jutilla says about 50 percent of all buses have cameras installed. There are also 50 officers who work the Metro.

The county is also working to release a mobile app, sometime this year, for riders to report sexual misconduct or other crimes and emergencies on the Metro.