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Wed, Jun

Riding Metro Transit With The Crackheads

LOS ANGELES

Deegan On LA—Mayor Bass, who does double duty as also being the Chair of LA Metro, the giant transportation agency, has been trying to wrestle with crime on buses and subways that has recently become a highlighted public safety issue for riders who feel less safe using the transit system.

Three times in two weeks, on May 14, 20 and 28, the LA Times published articles about crimes on the Metro system. In just that two week period, It reported these examples:

  • Man fatally slashed the throat of a 66-year-old woman as she was getting off a Metro train in Studio City.
  • A 70-year-old man was stabbed in the 2700 block of Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake aboard a Metro bus.
  • Stabbing at the La Brea Avenue and Olympic Boulevard bus stop.
  • Woman on a bus at Temple and Spring streets fighting with the bus driver, and removed his prescription glasses and fled the bus.
  • Two people were stabbed during a fight that started aboard a bus in Glendale. 
  • Woman was attacked in an elevator at the Vermont/Athens Metro train station.
  • Driver was stabbed on a bus full of passengers. 
  • A man slashed a woman’s arm with a weapon at a Metro station.
  • A fight broke out among a group of passengers aboard a Metro bus on Los Feliz Road at South Central Avenue in Glendale, where a man and three teenage boys got off and continued to fight in the street. Two of the four were stabbed.
  • Man stabbed a Metro bus driver in Willowbrook.

According to Metro, there were a little over 5 crimes reported per 1 million boardings in March. The total number of Metro bus and train boardings in March 2024 was 25.8 million. Using Metro’s stats that would be 125 reported crimes—averaging four per day—in March alone. That doesn’t include the unknown number of non-reported crimes. 

A spokesperson for L.A. Metro, said that according to agency statistics, arrests for “crimes against society,” such as trespassing, narcotics and weapons have increased 162.7% between March 2023 and May 2024 as a result of increased law enforcement presence throughout the transit system. This sounds like once law enforcement got more involved they, and Metro, saw the true scope of the  problem, highlighting that crime is a fixture on Metro.

Recently fired LA Metro security chief Gina Osborn claimed last week that 97% of the perps in transit crimes did not possess a fare card (https://omny.fm/shows/knxam-on-demand/knx-big-story-the-recently-dismissed-head-of-secur) when arrested. A card is required to pass through the turnstiles at subway stations. It, or cash, are used to board a bus.

This information jibes with, and may have led to, actions by Mayor Bass to create a law enforcement “surge” into train stations, and to set up a pilot program at the North Hollywood subway staton that hardens the turnstile operations to prevent access to the subway without using a fare card. Right now, people can and do physically jump over a turnstile to access the subway.

Bus access is far more vulnerable. Fare card readers are located in the front of the bus where the driver monitors entries and exits, and at the back doors of buses where riders “voluntarily” swipe their fare card. Having no supervision at the back doors allows anyone to board for free. At rush hour there is often a surge of free riders.

This is a challenging weakness for the Mayor’s transit rider safety plan.

Speaking as a consumer of Metro for the past twenty-seven years, I can attest to the efficiency of Metro buses and trains that I take. The services are good. The trains are where I see the most trouble, ranging from panhandlers and buskers asking passengers for money, to crackheads openly smoking their dope without concern. My Miracle Mile bus stop is another location I often see crackheads lighting up. 

The most extreme behavior I’ve seen on a bus is a white male passenger running up and down the aisle screaming “white power”, then verbally confronting and physically attacking the bus driver, and breaking open the emergency exit to flee as the driver was calling the police. This happened at high noon on a Sunday on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

(Tim Deegan is a civic activist whose Deegan on LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appear in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at [email protected].)

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