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Tue, Jul

No End In Sight.  Another Metro Transit Rider Shot in the Head, Another Fatally Stabbed

LOS ANGELES

DEEGAN ON LA - There have been two more reported fatalities on LA’s Metro Transit, as if to punctuate the urgency for better, more visible safety and security for the riders and operators of the Metro Transit System of trains and buses.  

The city learned of these fresh twin killings just as the Metro Board was voting 10-0 to create its own police force. 

A father of four was shot dead on the E Line, and a man was fatally stabbed on a Metro bus in South Los Angeles. 

The platforms for the subway trains are in stations several levels below street level—isolated, sometimes dim, and unwelcoming spaces for any rider—are often also a home to the homeless. No authority is present.  A visible, uniformed cop on platform duty would be a good start at deterrence. 

A lack of law and order on the transit system may feel like a relatively new issue for the public, although not for regular riders of Metro. It’s unknown how the agencies track the data. Maybe what we’re seeing now is more crime stats transparency by Metro, LAPD and LASD, or it’s the media coverage. 

Creating a new police force will require the winding down the contracts for LAPD and Sheriff’s patrols on the transit system, and recruiting and training a new corps of transit cops, and other support personnel, will take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a June 27 interview with the LA Times, outgoing Metro Chair, but still the Mayor that must be held accountable for the safety and security of LA residents, Karen Bass said that “There’s a lot we need to go through before we get there”.

“There” is a $193-million-a-year plan giving Metro 386 sworn officers, 34 transit officers and 673 ambassadors, crisis intervention staffers and homeless outreach crews.

Metro is looking at a recruiting, training and rollout plan of up to six years to have a full deployment of 1,093 fresh faces, and to shred the existing contracts with the cops and sheriffs.

Full completion is so far away that the mayor may no longer be the mayor by the time this is fully implemented, and the city will have gone through the stress of the 2028 Summer Olympics before full deployment of the new transit police corps.

A fresh look at how LAPD operates has been advocated by a bloc of progressive council members, anchored by Eunisses Hernandez (CD-1) and Hugo Soto-Martínez (CD-13) that is rooted in the “defund cops” approach.

The Metro plan has not yet been reviewed by the City Council. But the fact that 61% of the new transit police agency will be unarmed and “un-uniformed”, (the configuration that progressives have been talking about for the LAPD to make it a more holistic agency) and focus on social services engagement, should help push the huge budget through Council.

I’ve been a daily Metro customer for twenty-seven years. The busses are calm by comparison to the trains. What I’ve seen firsthand on the trains is buskers and panhandlers, crackheads openly lighting up their glass pipes, and drunks being disorderly. I’ve also seen how easy it is for these people to swap trains at stations or move between cars on a single train. Unlike the busses, the train’s driver sits isolated at the front of the train. On a bus, the driver has the ability to monitor troublemakers. I’ve seen a few ejected by a bus operator. 

The upside to the Metro plan championed by the Mayor is that it creates a model for how LAPD can prioritize their forces on crimes and public safety, not interacting with the homeless. The downside to the mayor’s “There” is that it will take years and cost millions, while the body count continues to rise here and now. 

For additional background about public safety and Metro Transit see the recent CityWatch article “Riding Metro Transit With The Crackheads”. 

(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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