At a press conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that all deputies who patrol anywhere in the LA County Metropolitan Transit Authority would be withdrawn from duty unless the Sheriff’s department is given complete control of security.
Currently, thanks to a 2017 contract, Metro security is split between the LA County Sheriffs (LASD), the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD). Villanueva said that the split system has led to higher crime and more deaths because of coverage issues that arise from such a system. Specifically, Sheriff Villanueva noted recent incidents of crime and unsafe behavior, such as a homeless man pushing a rider onto the tracks and causing head trauma in March 2020A Metro operator being shot in January 2021 at the Indiana station, 4 passengers being shot by a gang at Wilmington station in September 2021, and a homeless man being killed by a train due to sleeping on the tracks in February 2022. The Metro has also struggled removing homeless people from trains, causing ridership number to be lower.
Tuesday’s Brooklyn Subway mass shooting in New York was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Villanueva, as it showed what lax security could possibly allow in other metros in the U.S., including LA.
“The events that arose out of New York City in the last few days have been alarming, and sadly it hits way to home for here in Los Angeles County because of the MTA, and specifically because of the MTA boards and their decisions, that over the course, since 2017 to the present time, they’ve been consistently aiming at degrading and defunding law enforcement, degrading the capacity of law enforcement to address crime in a proactive manner,” said Villanueva on Wednesday. “To the point now that the MTA system here in L.A. is as vulnerable as the one in New York City.”
The 2017 Metro contract is due to expire on July 1st, with Villanueva stating that all Sheriff’s deputies will leave any Metro duty after that date unless they gain sole control for Metro security.
A push for sole security control
In several Tweets, the LAPD countered that, when compared to previous years, including pre-Pandemic, there has been a 22% reduction in violent crime on the Metro, and that ridership has not fallen since the last contract.
“The safety of the MTA ridership has not wavered in significance for the Los Angeles Police Department since obtaining the MTA contract in 2017,” explained the LAPD in a series of tweets. “The men and women of the LAPD monitor trains, platforms and buses diligently each and every day around the clock. This is evident when comparing year to date pre-pandemic violent crime in 2019 to 2022 as there is a 22% decrease. This specifically translates to 47 less victims of a violent crime. We continue to collaborate with MTA, various employee unions, Amtrak and our law enforcement partners in LASD and Long Beach.”
This is evident when comparing year to date pre-pandemic violent crime in 2019 to 2022 as there is a 22% decrease. This specifically translates to 47 less victims of a violent crime.
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) April 14, 2022
With a new contract now likely to exclude either the police departments or the LASD, many have noted that while crime and safety are major factors at play here, so are Department numbers.
“A lot of Departments lost both personnel and funding following George Floyd, and we saw crime rates go up as a result,” explained Will Packer. a transportation security consultant and former police officer, to the Globe on Thursday. “A lot of Departments want that funding back. They want their people back. And, if a Department gets sole duty for this kind of security, that means they will need a lot more resources and support. It’s not just about that of course. Law enforcement officers really care about peoples safety and stopping crime. But it’s a major factor, and one that can be the deciding one in something like this.”
As of Thursday, LA Metro authorities have not responded to how the next contract will go for all three law enforcement agencies.
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