Metro and LASD introduce new safety and security technologies


Elevated security towers called SkyWatch that will provide an “eye in the sky” at parking lots on the Metro Rail system. Photos by Joe Lemon/Metro.


A new security kiosk.


Another view of a SkyWatch tower. The towers are movable and can pivot in different directions.

A media event is being held this afternoon at the Blue Line’s Willow Station. Here’s the news release from Metro and a video with excerpts of the event:

Eye in the sky towers, security kiosks and smart technologies improve safety on the transit system

Affirming that safety is the highest priority, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) today announced the application of three major safety technologies and patrol innovations to augment ongoing efforts at passenger and employee security.

Metro is in the process of deploying elevated security towers called SkyWatch that will provide an “eye in the sky” at parking lots on the Metro Rail system. Paid for with a California Transit Security Grant of $479,215, the tow-able SkyWatch towers will provide real-time video surveillance at the Willow, Aviation, Culver City and Heritage Square stations and can be moved as needs arise.

“Every year, commuters park about 4 million vehicles in Metro parking lots before boarding our buses and trains,” Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Tightening security in these parking lots is an important part of making their commute safe and convenient.”

Metro has also begun installing security kiosks at nine locations to help Sheriff’s deputies and other security personnel access enforcement tools, such as closed circuit television (CCTV) displays, landline telephones, two-way radios and computer workstations. The kiosks will be installed at the Willow Street, Crenshaw/I-105, Aviation/LAX, La Cienega/Jefferson, North Hollywood, Wilshire/Western, 7th Street/Metro Center and Hollywood/Highland Stations and the Expo Power Sub Station. The kiosks were provided through a $5.1 million California Transit Security Grant.

“Installing state of the art security kiosks at these stations provides technology and a strong security presence at stations where so many passengers pass through each day,” said Metro Board member Jacquelyn Dupont Walker. All kiosks are scheduled for delivery by the end of October.

Metro and LASD are also expanding implementation of the LexRay mobile application technology that was initially adopted in 2013. LexRay brings key information from video and data directly to the user’s smartphone or tablet.

“With LexRay, the user doesn’t have to be present in a command center to access real-time information such as video from stations and rail platforms,” said Metro Executive Officer of Systems Safety and Law Enforcement Alex Wiggins. “LexRay works with Wi-Fi, cellular and satellite communications and can link with other law enforcement agencies making it interoperable in emergencies.” Next steps will be improvements to LexRay to will allow a user to see a live feed from inside a bus or train car that is in need of assistance.

The installation of ever-expanding technologies is working seamlessly with “intelligence led policing” and other law enforcement strategies to ensure Metro remains a safe system, recording only four serious crimes per one million boardings.

“Technologies are only as good as the people running them and we continually optimize law enforcement presence by using these tools to track occurrences and trends so resources can be redeployed based on current and on-going needs,” said LASD Transit Policing Division Chief Ronene Anda. “Accordingly, the riding public should not expect to see the same people at the same places every day.”

For the past seven months, Metro has been embarked on a safety enhancement program called The Three Es: Engineering, Education and Enforcement. The first step was installation of CCTV monitors on a test fleet of buses to display a live feed of the bus’s interior from its mounted cameras. Almost immediately, assaults and other crimes ceased on lines where the monitors were in service. Also, Metro installed bus operator safety barriers made of polycarbonate and steel on new buses arriving from the manufacturer. The barriers have shown so much promise protecting bus operators from assault that Metro modified its order for all 350 new buses to include protective barriers.

“The monitors and barriers are improving safety and security in their initial usage and we are fully committed to expanding them on all our new buses,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “The message is that we are watching and those who commit crimes on the Metro system will be caught and prosecuted.”

Metro’s award-winning smartphone application has undergone improvements to make it more effective and easier to use. The app, “LA Metro Transit Watch,” is available for free download from the Apple Store and Google Play and allows the user to contact the LASD Transit Policing Division dispatch center by telephone or file and electronic report complete with a photograph of the suspect.

In September, Metro began pilot testing an innovative customer service program called Transit Ambassador to give bus operators necessary tools to improve job performance, handle stress in their lives and defuse potentially dangerous situations in the field. Training and measuring of results will take a year.

Metro records about 1.4 million bus and rail boardings on a typical week day representing approximately 450,000 passengers. With a rate of serious crime of four per one million boardings, if Metro were a city, it would be the safest city of its size in the nation.

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13 replies

  1. This is ridiculous! I will be driving to work. What a police/surveillance state we have become.

  2. Why is it that only in America, that the answer to the question “more safety” leads to things like mobile prison towers? None of this truly solves the problem.

    The better way to make transit riders feel safer and solve the problem of why people resort to crime (no jobs) is to then open up the stations to retail spaces.

    Then you solve two things at once. Having shops will create additional eyes to the system without resorting to more police presence, makes the station more livelier than just being pass through space and it also helps create new jobs so that people don’t have to turn to a life of crime.

    Look at how Korea does their subway stations. You have book stores, retailers selling shoes and handbags, convenience stores, within the station.

    Do this first before adding prison towers that make riders feel like criminals.

  3. It does look like a prison tower but, to keep the people safe they are needed in some parts of the city..

  4. You: Help I’m being mugged!

    Government: Don’t fear, help is only 10 feet in the air away with SLOOOOOOOOOOOW crane movement that takes close to a minute just to lower down the thing to ground level.

    I’m better off going to and buying a pepper spray for ten bucks. The credo “when seconds count, the police are minutes away” still holds.

  5. Instead of wasting all this money on stuff that doesn’t do anything you can just do what ever other Metro system in the world does: Station attendants and if you want some security. Put the booth where the turnstiles are with people! No eye in the sky can see me at Hollywood/Vine at 1am waiting 30 minutes for a train, can’t save me from that, or the crazies everywhere, who didn’t pay. No one is guarding Metro’s front door.

    • Yep! Crazies push their way into nearly-deserted stations late at night and spend the next 20/30 min demonstrating exactly how unbalanced they are.

      Nothing is ever done about it. But yeah, let’s put up some prison towers. That’ll help people feel safe and welcomed.

  6. It looks like a prison tower. Why do you want to treat your customers like criminals?

  7. “Affirming that safety is the highest priority…”

    Yes, yes, we’ve heard this over and over again. It’s all in the name of safety, blah-blah-blah. Give it a rest, you’re not fooling anyone. People are getting sick and tired of this lame excuse being used over and over again to advance the police state America is becoming. We’re already subject to showing TAP cards despite going through turnstiles, we’re already subject to illegal searches without warrants, with cops treating people like criminals “guilty until proven innocent.” Let me guess, up next, we’ll be going through metal detectors just like the airport before boarding the train and doing strip searches?

    BTW, can Metro explain to me why a dinky little tin can security kiosk like the one shown on the photo above costs $5.1 million? Even if it’s across nine stations, it comes down to over $560,000 per kiosk. You can buy a house with that kind of money. Even adding in “closed circuit television (CCTV) displays, landline telephones, two-way radios and computer workstations” it’s still way too expensive. What does it do? Is it capable of withstanding a nuclear attack?

    Let’s not forget Metro recently spent $1.2 million dollars in taxpayer dollars to buy an overpriced RV on what they call a “mobile command center.”

  8. For those that don’t know what those SkyWatch mobile towers look like, it looks like this:

    Naturally, it made a lot of New Yorkers being watched by big brother and looks like a prison guard tower on wheels and many people didn’t like that idea of government surveillance all in the name of “safety.” Petitions were written by many in NY to remove these watch towers and eventually many of them did get removed due to public pressure.

    Guess we now know where these watchtowers NY didn’t want anymore went to: LA bought them.

    Anyone want to take bets on how long these watchtowers will last here in LA? And we’ll just be $480,000 more in wasted in taxpayer dollars.