PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Multnomah County is taking a bigger focus on prosecuting crimes that happen on TriMet as they see an uptick in incidents involving the transit system.

Right now, about 76% of TriMet cases referred to the DA’s office are prosecuted, according to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt.

“We are seeing drivers being assaulted, we’re seeing harassments, we’re seeing people who are on the system and creating a disturbance,” Schmidt said.

It’s a growing problem across public transit in the Portland area as TriMet operators and passengers deal with crime. It has led TriMet’s union, ATU 757, to meet with Schmidt this week on how to curb these cases and prosecute the ones that do come in.

The DA said it will come down to communication from both sides.

“How do we reach out to them when we need a witness, how do they reach out to us and make sure we have everything we need to prosecute the case,” Schmidt said. “I think that’s one thing that’s a commitment from the both of us, that we’re going to be in good communication.”

Just last month, a grand jury indicted a woman accused of stabbing a TriMet bus driver who was forced to escape through the window. Back in November, a woman was accused of a bias crime against a MAX rider, as well as hitting and kicking a TriMet supervisor.

Schmidt said that beyond prosecuting these cases, they also need more public safety officers actually present on transit systems. 

“I think if we got that back up to the rate that it was before, not to focus on small things or harass anybody or anything like that, but just to be present, to give people that kind of sense of safety, it would maybe deter some folks from doing things they are currently doing,” he said.

In a statement, Shirley Block, president of ATU 757, told KOIN 6 the entire community has been impacted beyond just operators and “too much crime is going on with too few people being held accountable.”

She added that while they’ve put pressure on the DA, “he can’t hold up his end of the deal if there aren’t enough police out there to enforce the laws, or defense attorneys to argue cases.”

“We want our public transportation system to be a safe system that people have confidence in using,” said Schmidt, adding that only about a third of the funded positions to have law enforcement on the transit system are actually filled. He said filling that deficit will be a next step moving forward.