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LA Mayor says Metro Board of Directors will push for more police visibility

LA Mayor says Metro Board of Directors will push for more police visibility
LA Mayor says Metro Board of Directors will push for more police visibility 02:30

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board of Directors Chair Karen Bass said Wednesday she and other board members will introduce a motion next week calling for an increase in law enforcement patrols and visibility on the transit system's buses and trains.

The move follows 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.

"As chair of the Metro (board), I am right now working with my colleagues -- the other members of the board of directors -- on a motion that we'll put forward at the next meeting, which is next week, that will be calling for an increase of patrols, increased visibility, on the buses and the trains," Bass told reporters Wednesday.

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

"Ridership is up almost to pre-pandemic levels and things have been going -- I mean, there had been an issue with crime, but not the type of violent crime that we've seen over the last couple of months," Bass said. "Clearly there is a spike. Clearly we will aggressively address that.

"So we are finalizing a motion right now. We'll probably make the motion public well before the meeting next week. So stay tuned in the next day or so we'll have that done."

Metro officials have wrestled in recent years over the best way to police the transit system. The agency has generally partnered with the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Long Beach Police Department to police the system. But 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.

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."

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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