ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – They hop on the train without buying a ticket, but for weeks MetroLink scofflaws have had a free pass because St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch wouldn’t honor tickets penned by Metro’s security guards.

But there’s progress on that front.

County Police Chief Jon Belmar says he’s now been assured by McCulloch that tickets will be prosecuted, whether it’s an officer or a guard who issues it.

“Metro’s a necessary component here in St. Louis, in our region, and we have an obligation to make it safe,” he says.

Related story: MetroLink Cracking Down on Those Who Ride in City Without Paying

Belmar was in studio with KMOX’s Charlie Brennan with news that since a task force was formed in April between St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Clair County – Part 1, or the most serious crimes, are down 50 percent, and Part 2 crimes are down 40 percent on the light rail line.

“That’s a good number anywhere you would go when you consider the ridership on our trains, and the length of that line and the number of stations,” Belmar said.

Brennan cut in, saying that according to former St. Louis mayor Francis Slay, ridership is down 23 percent.

“People are avoiding it,” he said.

“You know Charlie, I think that’s a conversation that would interesting to have because I’m not sure that you can attribute that to crime,” Belmar replied.

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