Metro safety: LA Mayor Bass orders ‘surge’ in law enforcement visibility on transit system

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Responding to a recent violent attacks tied to the region’s transit system, Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board of Directors Chair Karen Bass said Thursday she has ordered an “immediate surge” in public safety personnel on buses and trains to increase their visibility and deter crime.

“The spike in violent crime on Metro that we have recently seen against operators and riders has been absolutely unacceptable,” Bass said during a late-morning news conference Thursday. “And I know that all of my colleagues here today would agree.

“Yesterday, as chair of the board of Metro, I directed an immediate surge of law enforcement personnel on Metro buses and rail cars and stations,” she said. “Today, we are following that action with a motion to work to make Angelenos, our riders and our operators feel safe on the system.”

Bass said that motion, which will go before the Board of Directors next week, will “increase the daily planned deployment of public safety personnel on Metro and direct public safety personnel to be physically present on buses and trains and proactively patrol areas as well.”

The motion will also call for establishment of a “unified command” of the various law enforcement agencies who police the system — including Metro security, the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Long Beach Police Department.

It will also require that “cellular service is enabled and working in all underground Metro rail stations, on the platforms and during transit throughout the rail system,” Bass said. “The importance of this is so passengers, if they need to, get help immediately.”

The moves follow a spate of violent crimes connected to the system in recent weeks, including the fatal stabbing of a woman on a B Line train in the Studio City area last month and a trio of attacks this week that left three people stabbed and another struck in the chest during a robbery.

Concerns about safety on the Metro system have escalated in response to the highly publicized crimes, despite statistics showing an overall drop in crime tied to buses and trains over the past year.

Metro officials have wrestled in recent years over the best way to police the transit system. Three years ago — in the post-George Floyd era of calls for reductions in law enforcement spending — Metro opted to vastly expand its use of “ambassadors,” who are essentially customer service representatives positioned across the transit system to provide support and information to riders and a resource for people to report maintenance or safety issues.

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According to Metro’s own website, however, the ambassadors “are not security officers and do not replace existing security personnel or law enforcement. Rather, they are an added workforce that collaborates with other Metro departments in order to maintain public safety and help make the system feel safer for our riders.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who also sits on the Metro Board of Directors, told KNX News Wednesday morning that the agency cannot rely on ambassadors to make riders feel safer.

“I am very much focused on bringing law enforcement back to the table,” Barger told the station. “For years, Metro has struggled with how we address safety on our lines, and I feel we’ve taken the wrong approach.”

County Supervisor Janice Hahn, vice-chair of the Metro Board, said Thursday alongside Bass that law enforcement visibility has to be increased to make people feel safe on the system.

“We have the responsibility to every single one of our riders and our bus operators and our train operators to make the Metro safe, and part of the solution, I believe, has to be increasing law enforcement visibility and presence on our system,” she said.

Hahn acknowledged the contracts with LAPD, LASD and LBPD are critical for public safety, “but for too long, these contracts have not gotten us a readily visible law enforcement presence on our system.”

“We need law enforcement riding our buses and our trains,” she said. “It does not do our riders any good if officers remain in their squad cars.”

It was unclear how much the law enforcement increase being sought by the board members would cost the transit agency.

County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, also a Metro board member, introduced a separate motion Wednesday also aimed at boosting safety.

“We are looking at a 10% increase in the cost of Metro’s law enforcement contracts next year without any increase in presence,” Horvath said in a prepared statement. “This is unacceptable. We need safety personnel on every Metro bus and rail line to keep our riders safe. The motion I introduced calls for a cost analysis of all public safety entities that patrol the system to inform what visible presence is not only necessary, but most effective to make our system safer for everyone.”

“I look forward to welcoming Sheriff (Robert) Luna, (LAPD) Chief (Dominic) Choi, and (LBPD) Chief (Wally) Hebeish to Metro, and to the difficult and necessary decisions the Metro Board must make to address this safety crisis once and for all. The future of our system depends on it,” she said.

Safety issues on transit were highlighted this week by a trio of violent incidents, the most recent of which occurred Tuesday afternoon when a person was robbed and assaulted aboard a Metro bus in the Encino area. That attack occurred shortly after 2 p.m. on a bus near Ventura Boulevard and Balboa Avenue. Metro officials said a man was robbed of a cell phone and was hit in the chest. The suspect was arrested as he was walking away from the bus, and the victim was not seriously injured.

At about 7:05 p.m. Monday, a fight erupted on a Metro bus near West Los Feliz Road and South Central Avenue in Glendale. In that instance, according to Metro, the bus driver stopped the vehicle and four males exited and the fight continued on the street, leading to two of the four people being stabbed.

The two wounded people were taken to hospitals with non-life- threatening injuries, and the other two people involved were arrested, according to Metro.

Several media reports indicated that the altercation began when three juvenile suspects tried to steal a backpack from a teenage boy.

About two hours after that altercation, a woman was stabbed at the Metro C (Green) Line Vermont/Athens station at South Vermont Avenue and the Glenn Anderson (105) Freeway. The suspect fled by boarding a westbound train, authorities said. The victim was reported to have been stabbed in an arm.

Metro’s Board of Directors on April 29 approved an emergency procurement declaration to speed up acquisition and installation of protective barriers for drivers on about 2,000 buses due to the “sudden, unexpected increased severity of assaults on operators.”

The board also pushed for a review of other potential safety improvements, including an examination of measures such as securing all transit station entrances and exits, increasing security cameras on the system and making use of facial recognition technology.

Some bus drivers recently staged a “sick out” in protest of recent attacks on drivers.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.