NORRIS: If you thought pickpockets on the subway were a menace, transit officials in Boston have the different target. This month, they've arrested a record number of subway sex offenders. It's part of a new aggressive crackdown on people who take advantage of the tight quarters on crowded trains.

NPR's Tovia Smith has more about what's happening on Boston's T.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter, train rumbling)

TOVIA SMITH: Anyone riding a jam-packed train like this one headed for Boston, pretty much knows what they're in for. If it's rush hour, it' full body contact.

Unidentified Man: Wow, this is brutal.

SMITH: People are falling and bumping into each other. It's the perfect camouflage for guys who grope.

LAURA THOMAS: Just people touching my (bleep) and stuff.

SMITH: Laura Thomas says it sometimes takes a while to realize it's not a accident. Boston University student Dianne Wizka knew immediately with one guy who did more than grope.

Ms. DIANNA WIZKA (Student): I mean, like, he just kept on kind of, like, thrusting his pelvis and, like, rubbing up and down - like, skeevy.

SMITH: So what'd you do?

Ms. WIZKA: Nothing. Just kind of part of the train ride.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: T officials say women usually don't report an incident because they're embarrassed and they don't believe it'll do any good, anyway. But now they've plastered subway cars with nearly a thousand signs, urging victims to speak out and warning predators that they are being watched, both by cameras and by and undercover sting operation the police call the grope patrol.

Sergeant MIKE ADAMSON (Plainclothes Policeman): She's in a good position right now where a lot the times, the offenses do occur on the stairwell.

Sgt. Mike Adamson is one of several plainclothes backups keeping an eye on tonight's decoy. She's a pretty young blond wearing a T-shirt hanging off one shoulder, with a bright skirt and flip-flops.

(Soundbite of bell)

Unidentified Man: Please move into the car. Move back, please. Move back, please.

SMITH: She ends up wedged between the trolley door and a bald guy in a button-down shirt who keeps trying to talk to her.

He's got his arm right behind her back.

Sgt. ADAMSON: Yup.

SMITH: She just winked at you. Is that a good wink or a bad wink?

Sgt. ADAMSON: It means keep an eye on me wink.

SMITH: Adamson and the others do as the guy drops his arm down lower, behind the decoy's back.

SMITH: This guy has no idea what he's doing.

Sgt. ADAMSON: No idea. No idea how many eyes are on him right now.

SMITH: The team stays in position for another four or five stops watching the guy, but finally lose interest.

Sgt. ADAMSON: It gets to a point, where, you know, if he doesn't do anything, if he doesn't commit an offense, just move on.

SMITH: Back on the platform, the decoy laughs at the guy's lame pickup lines about her tattoo and her toes. It's not nearly enough for the grope patrol.

Sgt. ADAMSON: Hey, we're not looking to discourage guys from talking to women.

SMITH: Right.

Sgt. ADAMSON: You know, they - hold on. They got something going on.

Spread your legs.

SMITH: Turns out it's just a kid who's jumped onto the tracks, a minor distraction. But after more than a month undercover, the grope patrol is making a difference. As women see the T taking sex offenses more seriously, they're already reporting twice the number of incidents, from the relatively minor to the really lewd.

Unidentified Woman: Some women have actually preserved their clothing for us, which we would need for evidence.

SMITH: The Monica Lewinski dress?

Unidentified Woman: Something like that, yeah.

SMITH: Other women are sending in pictures of guys they snap on their cell phone. It all keeps our decoy in hot pursuit.

Unidentified Woman: See? When he walked by, he tried to (unintelligible) butt, but the woman moved away.

SMITH: Because there was no actual contact, this guy's allowed to walk. But it's one more face the grope patrol will watch for tomorrow.

So at the end of the night, when you don't end up nabbing anybody, is it disappointing?

Unidentified Woman: No one tried to grope me tonight? Okay with me. There's always tomorrow.

SMITH: And so, in Boston, gropers beware. You never know who you may be rubbing the wrong way. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.