Campaign stepped up to combat sexual harassment on Metro

The key call to action for riders:

Metro encourages passengers to report sexual harassment and any crime to the Sheriff’s hotline at 1.888.950.SAFE (7233) or call 911. Additionally, passengers can inform a bus operator, who can summon help. On a Metro Rail train, passengers can use the Emergency Call button located in the rail car. Report incidents via Metro’s application for smartphones, LA Metro Transit Watch, which is available for free download at the App Store and Google Play. The app contains a feature that turns off the camera’s flash, allowing people to take a photograph without being noticed.

Here’s the entire news release from Metro:

Metro, Peace Over Violence and LASD Double Down on Campaign to Thwart Sexual Harassment

Reaffirming their commitment to safety and security, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), the community organization Peace Over Violence (POV) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) today announced a stepped-up public information campaign to enlist riders’ help in on-going efforts to thwart sexual harassment on the bus and rail system.

Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas at the prevent Thursday. Photo by Juan Ocampo for Metro.

Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas at the prevent Thursday. Photo by Juan Ocampo for Metro.

“Safety is Metro’s highest priority, and today we double down on the successful ‘It’s Off Limits’ campaign we first started six months ago,” said L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We have updated our campaign with a call to action, and we encourage anyone who experiences or witnesses sexual harassment to speak up and report the crime.”

Metro, POV and the LASD launched a second outreach of the “It’s Off Limits” campaign that, in its first release last spring, contributed to a decline in incidents of sexual harassment.

For the past two years, Metro’s semi-annual Customer Satisfaction Survey has asked a question about sexual harassment: “In the past six months, while riding on Metro, have you experienced unwanted sexual contact including, but not limited to, comments, touching or exposure.” In the fall 2014 survey 22 percent of respondents answered “yes.” After the “It’s Off Limits” campaign was launched the “yes” responses in the spring 2015 survey declined to 19 percent.

Metro is one of a handful of transit agencies worldwide that surveys customers on sexual harassment. Some agencies, notably Boston and London, have tried anti-harassment public information campaigns but none has had the same results as Metro.

“Metro’s highest priority is to ensure that our bus and rail system is safe for our passengers and employees,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board member Michael D. Antonovich, co-author of the motion that brought together MTA Communications, Security and Ethics office to reduce the number of these incidents. “We must continually work to enhance transit safety to prevent criminal activity, harassment or any sexual misconduct – even one offensive occurrence is one too many.”

Metro’s process is unique, whereas other transit agencies rely on academic institutions or media organizations to study their transit riders on sexual harassment; Metro staff conducts the survey and brings together stakeholders to find a solution.

“While the modest reduction in incidents is a promising start, we have to increase our efforts to stop sexual harassment and keep our transit lines safe and comfortable for women and girls,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro board member Sheila Kuehl. “We need to be constantly vigilant and responsive, sending an unmistakable message to potential harassers that they will be identified, arrested and prosecuted.”

 The first outreach of “It’s Off Limits” defined sexual harassment as unwanted touching, comments and gestures. The updated message contains the call to action “Speak Up” and that sexual harassment is off limits on Metro. If you experience it or see it – report it. Call 1.888.950.SAFE.

“Speak up is the next step in progressive messaging to empower victims and witnesses of sexual harassment to report, since the overwhelming majority of these crimes go unreported,” said Peace Over Violence Executive Director Patti Giggans.

In 2014, the LASD registered 99 reports of sexual harassment on the Metro system compared to 19 percent of nearly 20,000 respondents to the Customer Satisfaction Survey indicating they had experienced unwanted sexual contact.

“Sexual harassment is not something a person has to put up with, it is not a part of life. We want to end it and the Sheriff’s department needs your help to do it,” said LASD Chief Ronene Anda. “If we get reports of inappropriate behavior that we can investigate, that’s just one more way that we can all help make the system safer for all of our passengers.

The active involvement of the riding public, working in partnership with law enforcement, expands Metro’s reach in providing a safer transit experience. Metro has 1.4 million bus and rail boardings on a typical week day.

“Each person who rides the system can be a partner with us in helping to keep their fellow passengers safe,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “Harassers are on notice that passengers will speak up and we will find you, arrest you and prosecute you.”

Metro encourages passengers to report sexual harassment and any crime to the Sheriff’s hotline at 1.888.950.SAFE (7233) or call 911. Additionally, passengers can inform a bus operator, who can summon help. On a Metro Rail train, passengers can use the Emergency Call button located in the rail car. Report incidents via Metro’s application for smartphones, LA Metro Transit Watch, which is available for free download at the App Store and Google Play. The app contains a feature that turns off the camera’s flash, allowing people to take a photograph without being noticed.

Metro has already formed a multi-departmental Safe Space Task Force to attack the issue of sexual harassment, has updated Metro’s Customer Code of Conduct to explicitly prohibit unwanted sexual attention, formed a partnership with POV to provide non-law enforcement support for victims, is in compliance with national best practices recognized by the American Public Transportation Association and is in the process of forming a Community Roundtable to better connect Metro with its customers and to inform them of responses on the issue.

6 replies

  1. “While the modest reduction in incidents is a promising start, we have to increase our efforts to stop sexual harassment and keep our transit lines safe and comfortable for women and girls”

    This statement made by Supervisor Kuehl is quite judgmental in the way that she assumes automatically that sexual harassment can only happen to “women and girls” when it can also happen to any person regardless of sex or gender identity.

    Do I sense an underlying tone that men and LGBT should just cope with sexual harassment when it’s directed at them?

    http://i.imgur.com/9LJwdVE.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/XYrWROw.jpg

    • Sexual harassment across all cultures,geographies, etc. is primarily a predatory act of males against women and girls. I assume Supervisor Kuehl specifically referenced “women and girls” because they are the ones who are facing sexual harassment at a higher rate than any other demographic. Women under the age of 35 are twice as likely to be verbally harassed on-board Metro’s system than men under the age of 35. Young women are also 32% more likely to be physically harassed than their male counterparts.

      As for Supervisor Kuehl not caring about sexual harassment of the LGBT community on-board Metro, please google “Sheila Kuehl”.

      Matthew Kridler
      Metro Research

  2. Oh goody, another presser, just like the one held each month on this topic. Here’s the issue:
    1) Despite the almost daily parade of force at LAUS, there isn’t anyone in uniforms on the trains or on the platforms.
    2) Even though Chicago today announced 4G service in their subway tunnels, nothing like that exists on Metro. Call box? If they work, one is just exposing oneself to becoming the new target. But hey, I’m sure Ridley-Thomas’ voice sounded cool with the extra echo the east portal creates!

  3. As much as I am pro-technology, no app is going to help someone in need in defending oneself from harm.

    Besides, I think its quite dangerous and goes against civil rights to use such an app to call the police. What’s stopping from a person to purposely use this app to have a person they just don’t like arrested? A person could use this app to take a photo of another person that they may not like for whatever reason to have them arrested with false accusations, when they have done nothing wrong.

    Using an example, what’s stopping an old racist white person in uaing this.app to take photos against immigrant minorities and accuse them of sexual harassment in hopes to deort them? Put it that way, this is Naziesque and isn’t the America I want.

    Don’t think it.can happen? Google up “false accusations” and you find a lot of reports about this.

  4. One thing to keep in mind though is that as the Metro system expands and ridership grows, Metro will certainly one day end up with situations faced in other cities around the world where massive overcrowding of trains will happen, if not already. Take for example, the NYC subway which at times, can have load factors of 110% or more with people shoving, heaving, and pushing themselves into squeeze in every last inch of space into the trains. Any person who has ridden the NYC subway at such peak times will know what I’m talking about:

    http://i.imgur.com/f7qlcfQ.jpg

    And when that happens, it will be very difficult to tell who is a lecher or not, the victim may not be able to anything because the space is too tightly spaced, and certainly there’s not even enough wiggle room to even take a picture of it, certainly no way for law enforcement to even come onboard or do an investigation at such levels.

    So for a word of advice to Metro, is that as you grow to become a world class system, you too will unfortunately come face-to-face with world class transit problems like these. And when it does, Metro may need to consider asking the public opinion where we may need to ask ourselves whether we should adopt drastic measures such as these for peak commute hours:

    http://i.imgur.com/8iBGpbo.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/27Mkp5R.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/TE5r514.jpg

    Knowing what places like Japan, India, and Indonesia have adopted, the debate on whether to do this or not will likely result in the question that is separating the sexes by train cars tantamount to sexism, or does it become necessary segregation, like restrooms?

    Difficult decisions will need to be made for difficult problems.

    • “is separating the sexes by train cars tantamount to sexism, or does it become necessary segregation, like restrooms?”

      Interesting question and it is a topic that can be taken both ways.

      In Israel, they used to have what they called Mehadrin buses which were bus lines for Orthodox Jews in which men sat at the front of the bus, women sat at the rear of the bus, and strict dress codes were enforced. The highest court in Israel said this was sexist, but let it continue on a voluntary basis in 2011. Women were allowed to sit at the front if they wished to do so, but it just lead to more problems.

      You can Google up “Mehadrin bus” and you can read all about it.

      But on the other hand, you have the UK in which they’re actually starting to look into reviving this idea. Women only train cars was abolished in the UK back in the late 1970s. But some women in the UK are actually calling for the revival of the concept of women only passenger cars to segregate themselves from men to solve the groping problem issues. And it’s the Labour Party (equivalent to the Democratic Party in the US) that are calling for this with the consultation of women’s rights groups, while the Conservative Party (the UK’s GOP counterpart) that are against this.

      You can Google up “Jeremy Corbin women only trains” for details in this matter.

      So can women only train cars be sexist or as a necessity? It really is up to the public to decide if put forth as a question, and it really should be asked toward women in LA if this is an idea that should be considered or not.