Violent crime is up and drug use, trespassing and thefts are down on LA Metro

Violent crimes rose nearly 16% on LA Metro’s transit system from March to April, while societal crimes such as passengers using drugs, carrying weapons or trespassing decreased by 34% and property crimes dropped 4%, according to a Metro safety report released Thursday, June 20.

Assaults on bus and train operators rose slightly, from 10 in March to 12 in April. The three top assault methods were brandishing a knife, using a knife. or using hands to slap or punch. Operator assaults have dropped from a high in November 2023 of 20, Metro reported.

The Metro monthly safety report was discussed during the meeting of the Operations, Safety and Customer Experience Committee on Thursday. It comes after the agency began a “surge” in late May of extra law enforcement officers at crime-prone sections of the vast system of trains and buses in response to 10 stabbings and two shootings in April through mid-May.

Mirna Soza Arauz, 66, seen in a photo on the GoFundMe website, was heading home after boarding Metro B (Red) Line in North Hollywood early Monday, April 22, 2024, and was stabbed to death. A suspect identified as Elliott Tramel Nowden, 45, was arrested. LA Metro’s board voted on Thursday, May 23, 2024 to beef up patrols and other security measures on its system. (Photo via GoFundMe)

Of those attacks, three were fatal, including the killing of a grandmother, Mirna Soza Arauz, heading to her home in the San Fernando Valley after boarding the train in North Hollywood on April 22. She was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack. It was the only homicide on the Metro system in April.

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The report said incidents of aggravated assaults, battery, robbery and sex offenses all increased in April on the system. There were no rapes. In five of the nine non-violent crime categories, there was a decrease in incidents. Only vandalism increased slightly.

The Metro safety statistics were released two weeks after a USC Dornsife LABarometer survey reported that 84% of L.A. residents think riding Metro trains is unsafe. That’s up from 76% before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the same survey found frequent LA Metro riders disagreed, and believed the system was safer, as compared to responses from occasional riders.

“According to our latest survey, safety does seem to be one of the driving forces keeping people from returning to public transportation post-pandemic, especially for higher-income residents who don’t absolutely need to use it,” said Kyla Thomas, sociologist at the Center for Economic and Social Research and director of LABarometer.

LA Metro uses three law enforcement groups: LAPD, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and Long Beach Police Department. Aside from the April statistics, the safety report also focuses on LAPD activity during the surge, from May 20 through May 28.

LAPD Senior Lead Officer Andrew Cullen talks to passengers on the Metro Red Line on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. On June 20, 2024, an LA Metro committee heard statistics about crimes, incidents and arrests on the system in April 2024, and during the “surge” of law enforcement in late May 2024. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

The LAPD reported 152 “surge-related arrests.” These included 121 for trespassing; 24 related to warrants; two for weapons and one robbery. They took place on the B (Red), D (Purple) and E (Expo) Lines. Metro staff believed the trespassing arrests were of transients and drug users on trains, and at stations not utilizing the transit system.

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LASD officers patrolling the A and C lines reported four arrests: two for narcotics, one weapons-related and one for drinking in public.

In the statistics from April, Metro Transit Security officers issued 131 citations and 39 written warnings; and law enforcement officers made 519 arrests, issued 622 citations and 1,753 warnings. A partial demographic breakdown of the arrests were as follows: 39% Black; 40% Latino and 18% white, according to the Metro safety report.

Los Angeles City Council President and Metro board and committee member Paul Krekorian said the increase in arrests doesn’t necessarily mean there’s more crime on LA Metro. “Every time we increase enforcement, crime numbers go up. What that means is we are doing a more effective job of enforcement,” he said.

The top four lines for arrests in April were B Line (Red), 239; A Line (Blue), 95; C Line (Green), 43; E Line (Expo), 20. The fewest number of arrests were on G (Orange Line bus rapid transit in San Fernando Valley), 18; D Line (Purple), 3; K Line (Crenshaw), 3; Union Station in DTLA, 4.

Metro Ambassadors, unarmed greeters in bright green shirts who call law enforcement when they see a problem, conducted 69,950 customer engagements in March, the latest figures showed. They were for issues of cleanliness, elevator and escalator problems, graffiti and safety issues. Ambassadors saved 17 lives by administering Narcan to passengers or those in stations and depots overdosing on opioids, the report stated.

Bart Reed, executive director of The Transit Coalition and an active transit user, said he’s seen five LAPD officers at one time at the B Line North Hollywood Station, but none at the B and D Line station at Pershing Square, where he saw many people trespassing who were unhoused and mentally ill.

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“They need officers and mental health team workers there, too,” Reed said.

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LA Metro beefing up police patrols, ‘hardening’ stations to stop rise in violence
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