ANC6C Commissioners Raise Issue of Safety Concerns at Union Station
by Larry Janezich
Posted September 15, 2022
Wednesday night, Doug Carr, President and CEO of the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC) joined ANC6C’s September virtual meeting to address concerns raised by commissioners about safety and quality of life issues at Union Station – especially those related to the southern portico running the length of the station.
Commissioner Jay Adelstein spoke on behalf of a constituent, citing reports of various criminal activities and unhoused individuals lingering in Union Station.
Carr responded that they deal with several quality of life issues on a daily basis and rely on a “fairly robust amount of resources including both contract support and city resources” to deal with homeless issues. He said that the homeless issue was very important to the station and the community and that the Redevelopment Corporation and its partners invest fairly heavily in outreach and resource support.
Commissioner Joel Kelty encouraged Carr to focus law enforcement support on the front portico, saying he had been through there several times in the past few weeks and “it is not the beautiful pedestrian experience it once was. There’s a tremendous amount of loitering, smoking, and food waste all over the sidewalk.”
Commissioner Mark Eckenweiler said that he goes through Union Station on the way to and from work and today, “as often happens, at least one individual was screaming in a very threatening and menacing way” which under any disorderly statute would be impermissible. He added, “It creates an unwelcoming atmosphere for residents and visitors to the area. I don’t know who’s supposed to be policing on the portico – Amtrak police and contract security – and at what point MPD takes over – but more needs to be done.”
Carr said he appreciated the comments and would bring back the observations, adding that the feedback was helpful, allowing them to adjust. He reiterated that there is significant investment in resources and personnel but acknowledged that this doesn’t mean they get it perfect all hours of the day. He said that these issues involve the start and finish of passenger experiences so “they are a specific area of focus for us.” He cited the corporation’s collaboration with and support of outside consultants, noting that “it’s a combination of law enforcement, private security, and homeless specialists specifically trained in crisis de-escalation and mediators trained to manage aggressive behavior.” He said those efforts have made an impact on the station but that more needs to be done and he would pass that on to the operations team.
Carr was less reassuring regarding Chair Karen Wirt’s question about where other concerns should be directed.
Carr replied that it depends on the nature of the concern, citing law enforcement for immediate concerns. He noted that the USRC has a call number (but did not provide it). He said the ANC is a valuable opportunity to express concerns. Given the daily frequency of activity he said that if something is observed, members of the community should feel empowered to seek out law enforcement, private security, or “building personnel who are identifiable.” He ended by reiterating that it depends on the nature and urgency of the concern.