Metro Board delays vote on new policing contract

(pdf of the above report for downloading and printing

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:

(pdf here for downloading and printing)



13 replies

  1. I’ll attempt to make it as easy as possible to explain. Previously the MTA had the LAPD and the LASD as their law enforcement agencies. It presented a very hazardous problem. While the LASD has county wide jurisdiction the LAPD was and is restricted to the City of Los Angeles. As a former radio dispatcher at the MTA I along with my colleagues felt frustration of calling one agency alerting them of a problem on a bus in their jurisdiction and calling the other agency that it was scheduled or is currently traveling outside their jurisdiction or patrol responsibility. The problem was compounded on a line such as the four line where a bus would enter and leave jurisdictions and again enter the previous. If for instance the LAPD could enter and enforce in such cities like West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica the plan would work. But cities don’t like other departments infringing on their territories. One agency, the LASD with a increased budget is the only reasonable answer.

  2. Hey Mr. Washington…..get this right. Enough is enough! Make Metro safe and enjoyable to ride again. Stop having people fear using rail and bus service. Start cracking down on the homeless, mental cases, drunks, sleepers, junkies, and vendors that ride everyday. I am willing to bet that 99.9 % of this people are riding for free. Especially the redline. What good is it to build great public transportation and then have all this riff raffs run it down to the ground!

  3. The Daily Breeze newspaper’s web site says that the sheriffs contract might be eliminated, not just scaled back. The Daily Breeze also did not announce that Metro’s decision to contract with the Los Angeles and Long Beach city police has been postponed until February.

    • Hi Dominick;

      The contract proposal that the Board was to consider was a scaled back contract with the LASD. Without LASD, another agency would need to be found for many areas of the Metro system that presumably the LAPD and LBPD would not be covering. So I don’t think there’s much likelihood of that happening and it remains to be seen what, if any, changes are made to the staff proposed contract between now and February.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. Safety is my number one issue when taking the red line between DTLA and Hollywood. I have seen so many disturbing issues (drug use on the train, homeless stinking people on the train, passed out people on platform, mentally crazy people screaming during train ride), it is just shocking what’s going on here.
    I am aware of the policing efforts: officers with a dog being bored, or fare checking officers which tap any card holder they wish to get a hold off.
    How come your system is so dirty, misused, scary to use if you have a policing contract in place?

  5. Something needs to change as the current conditions of Metro Rail should not be the “normal” it is. We ride Metro Rail on average once or twice a month when we go to events downtown. Previously we lived near the red line and now we live near the gold line. In the past year, we’ve seen people urinating and defecating on red line platforms at both Metro Center and Hollywood/Vine, people passed out on trains, people heavily under the influence of drugs/alcohol, fare violators entering through emergency exit and handicap gates, candy kids and others soliciting in trains, and last Wednesday night after the Kings game, there were at least a dozen people camping out on end of the Metro Center red/purple line platform that were definitely not waiting on a train. You could make these things into a bingo card and win almost every night we’ve rode. It shouldn’t be that way. That shouldn’t be the “normal.” We understand that homelessness is a major epidemic in LA but the transit stations, especially rail platforms should not be places for people to sleep, defecate, and loiter for hours at a time. At Union Station last Wednesday night there were 3 people sleeping in the red line station entrance and 3 Sheriff’s officers standing right outside the entrance in the Union Station lobby near Wetzels hanging out looking bored. We’ve never seen Sheriff officers riding on trains and the only times we’ve seen them on the Gold or Red line have been at a station doing random fare checks. As infrequent riders, seeing these things every time we ride makes me believe that these types of issues give new riders the impression that transit is not safe, especially riders traveling alone.

    As someone who has ridden subways in most major cities in the US and Canada, my view of the Metro Rail environment is down towards the bottom of the list. I am grateful to have the service, but after evening rush hour the red/purple line is downright scary at times. I easily understand why people would pay more to take an Uber instead of riding the subway after PM rush hour. In contrast, we recently were in Seoul to visit my brother in law and rode their subway and it was unbelievable how clean and accommodating the trains and stations were. (Many videos of their subway are available on youtube for reference) It is a night and day difference to what we have in LA. Stations were larger than they are here (which I know can’t be easily changed), but every station had an attendant and/or caretaker/custodian or both. It makes me realize that tourists who come to LA and rely our Metro to get around must be left with such a poor impression of our system.

    I appreciate Metro and use Metro when convenient, but Metro could be much better with a few changes/improvements:

    1) More patrols on trains. I know we are casual riders but we’ve never seen patrols on trains. Where are all the Sheriff officers that are supposed to be patrolling Metro? When we do see sheriff patrols it almost has always been at Union Station doing a fare check, not randomly riding trains. Other city transit systems do this.

    2) An anti loitering rule/ordinance. Other cities have them. I’ve ridden transit in cities where transit operators report those sleeping/loitering in stations if they pass the same individual at the stop on consecutive trips. Security/sheriff’s at NoHo, Union Station, and Wilshire stations clearing trains of sleeping riders who have exceeded their 2 hour fare allowance. If there is an ordinance, more enforcement is needed as clearly there is zero enforcement today. Any individual has a right to use the service, but some are clearly abusing and taking advantage of the system.

    3) Manned subway stations, especially during early AM and after PM rush hour and all operating hours in high traffic/tourist heavy stations. A Security guard and/or a Metro employee/ambassador should be at stations to patrol platforms and monitor for fare abuse as well as answer rider questions, ensure station cleanliness, and call for police/medical assistance if needed. In stations frequented by tourists such as Universal City, Hollywood/Highland, Hollywood/Vine, Metro Center, and Union Station, why are there not Metro employees there full time to assist visitors use the fare machines and guide visitors? Metrolink has employees in Union Station in the tunnel near their platforms during rush hours, why can this not be done at Metro Rail stations as well? On more than one occasion I’ve assisted visitors use fare machines at Hollywood and Highland because they were unclear how to use the machines.

    Sadly, I have to agree with the comments in the article above and others that have stated that you are “on your own” safety wise on Metro. It is unfortunate that these types of items aren’t already in place today as these are things done in other US transit systems today. I support a change in the policing of the Metro system. It is LONG overdue.

  6. Board Member Shella Kuehl got it right when after the LAPD Presentation she said Metro Riders don’t care if they have Bomb Sniffing Dogs. What we all want to SEE is a Uniformed Security Person when we are using Metro to feel safe. That is where Metro has failed & ALL of the Board Agreed on that. Certainly a step in the right direction. Why it took so long to understand that is not reassuring but hopefully they will take steps to correct it.

  7. That LASD Transit is still using the old Metro logo from 2003 and does not mention in any way that there is now also a “Purple Line” in their documents is quite telling of their management style.

    3 month defacto extension? Look likes @people_onthebus will have even more material to post on Instagram.

  8. Just look at the Bus Lanes on Wilshire. The ones marked “Bikes OK”. In the last year we have had a Metro-led campaign to have LASD harass bicycle users:

    But at the same time, since LAPD has no responsibility for policing or enforcing these lanes, they will park in them themselves and will tell other motorists (trucks) that blocking them is OK.

    Getting all police agencies on board first would be a step.

  9. I think the bigger problem is not necessarily with actual crime statistics, but rather the perception of safety on Metro. In my opinion, there is no excuse for a single unmanned station on the Metro rail network. If every station had either a Metro employee or police/security presence, there would be significantly less crime on the network and the perception of safety would rise considerably. With someone manning every station, there is always somewhere safe to run to or someone to notify if an event occurs on a train itself. It would also give an opportunity to prevent crimes before they happen by denying ridership to known offenders before they can get on the train. A manned presence at every station would also prevent large numbers of fare evasion, which would in turn pay for the additional personnel.

  10. Am I the only person who finds it disturbing to have law enforcement on board trains and in stations? I figure they would be better utilized fighting street crime, rather than checking fares.

    • well lets see what street crime is out there. LA is a sanctuary city so no illegals get busted, what street crime are you alluding to like the hotdog vendors and other mobile food vendors which store front restaurants have to compete against well that not overseen. maybe a hit and run if there is no personal casualty the police don’t investigate. you might as well have the police doing something