Grappling with an issue often raised by Metro riders — the presence of police on the system, or sometimes the lack thereof — the Metro Board of Directors voted 7 to 4 on Thursday to delay a vote on a new policing contract until February.
The vote gives the Metro Board until February to mull a Metro staff proposal to split policing of the Metro system between three police departments — the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Long Beach Police Department — instead of the current deal which relies solely on the LASD. [staff report on the contract here].
Voting ‘yes’ on the motion seeking a delay by Board Members Don Knabe and Diane DuBois were Knabe, DuBois, John Fasana, Paul Krekorian, Sheila Kuehl, James T. Butts and Ara Najarian. The ‘no’ votes were from Eric Garcetti, Mike Bonin, Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker and Michael D. Antonovich. Absent for the vote were Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Even without a resolution of the long-standing issue on Thursday, Board Members certainly offered some nuggets about the state of policing on the system. While the LASD says that crime is down this year, many Board Members and Metro staff said that surveys and anecdotal evidence suggests that many Metro riders want to see more police on buses and trains and in stations. To wit:
•Board Member Sheila Kuehl said that for years she has been lobbying friends and constituents to take transit but many told her that they don’t feel safe. Nonetheless, Kuehl said, she wasn’t entirely comfortable with splitting the policing work between three agencies and wanted more time to consider the issue and get more answers about logistical questions.
•”I don’t think we can wait,” said Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, citing anecdotes from riders who use the bus in the wee hours of the night and who often encounter safety issues but never see police. “Imagine you’re going to work and you have to get on the bus” and there is no security, she said. “I’m not sure anything is gained by going another minute beyond this meeting” without making a decision.
•Board Member Mike Bonin — who likened taking up the issue to “urinating into the wind” — said that his niece visited Los Angeles last summer and was sexually harassed three times and inappropriately touched once while riding the 733 between the Westside and a downtown L.A. internship. He, too, said it was best to move forward because there is no perfect policing system, as did his City Hall colleague Mayor Eric Garcetti, who acknowledged it’s rare for riders to see Sheriff’s Deputies riding buses and trains.
The Metro staff proposed contracts totaled up to $546.5 million over five years with the work split between the LASD ($129.8 to $149.8 million contract), the Los Angeles Police Department ($369.7 million) and the Long Beach Police Department ($27 million). Metro officials said that the new contracts would result in more officers riding buses and trains instead of the current situation which, according to Metro’s security chief Alex Wiggins, often results in uncertain staffing on a day-to-day basis and shaky coverage during shift changes and late nights.
Metro staff also say the new arrangement would result in much better response times than the current 16 minutes under the LASD for all calls over Metro’s 1,400 square mile service area. One reason: the bulk of the calls made asking for police by riders come in the city of Los Angeles. The LAPD says its response time is six minutes for calls and the LBPD says it has a five minute response time.
The chiefs of all three agencies made hard pitches to the Board.
The LASD’s Jim McDonnell said the best way to keep riders safe was to retain the LASD as the one agency in charge of policing the system — and credited the LASD for the reduction in crime on Metro thus far this year. The LAPD’s Charlie Beck said that his force has the largest anti-terrorism unit outside of New York City and that the overtime they would use to patrol Metro is a tactic commonly used in L.A. LBPD Chief Robert Luna emphasized the low response times in Long Beach and the importance of keeping the Blue Line safe; Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia added that the city receives very frequent complaints from residents about safety on the Blue Line.
Another rider named Ray recently left this comment on The Source:
Metro has become more interested in forcing the public to secure themselves with little or no help from LASD or any private security company being employed. I have seen homeless people harass patrons in front of deputies and nothing is done. There are the fare inspectors that are more interested in checking social media or gossiping than actually checking fares. Riding the early morning Red Line, it’s been about a year since any type of security has been seen between North Hollywood and 7th/Metro Center.
The paying patrons should not have to wait for a new contract for changes to be made. There are many improvements that can be made today if only Metro management and LASD took a stand and actually cared.
When was the last time any city official actually rode any part of the system as a regular patron? And don’t point to any of the images of the mayor sitting on a bus with only one other person in site.
Here is a recent Source post on the issue. And below are the most recent crime stats for the Metro system from the LASD:
Categories: Policy & Funding