FROM THE RIGHT: Dealing with transit crime in LA County

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By Don Schmitz 

The beatings, stabbings, and murders on the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) buses and trains have reached the point whereupon the violence can no longer be ignored. Reports are almost daily in the papers and broadcasts. 

In February, a passenger was killed on a bus in Koreatown, and in April, a 67-year-old woman was stabbed in the throat on a train by a robber taking her purse. Drivers are also being attacked, with 12 assaults in February and 10 in March. Fed up, the driver’s union organized a “sick out” this month to protest the violence, and Mayor Karen Bass and the LA County Board of Supervisors are paying attention and promising action. In deciding how to fix the obvious threats to public safety, it is important to see what transpired for us to get here. Gone is the catch-all excuse for everything bad, the COVID pandemic. Barring some general psychosis that has suddenly gripped transit riders, these violent trends are attributable to bad public policy. The first and obvious factor is the permissive attitude of District Attorney George Gascon. 

Word got out a long time ago that criminals have little to fear from the legal system in LA County. Misdemeanors, and sometimes felonies, are not prosecuted, while criminals are released without bail on their own recognizance the next day. The second factor is how policing of the transit system has evolved. In the 1990s the MTA Board decided to disband the MTA Transit Police, replacing it with a Sheriff Department contract. The LA County Sheriff’s Department is a highly professional and historied department that runs our prisons, and patrols various county areas and contract cities. However, the transit environment is specialized, and perhaps a general law enforcement agency isn’t the best fit. The MTA voted last year to create a new police force dedicated to patrolling the system. 

When the “defund the police” insanity gripped many left-leaning cities during the BLM/Antifa riots, the LAPD saw its budget slashed by $150 million in 2020, but in reaction to the spiking crime the MTA increased the transit police funding by $36 million in 2021. The beatings and murders are terrifying to riders, so Bass has announced an “immediate surge” in uniformed officers riding the buses and trains, and over time, the number will be increased by 20 percent. Riders are commenting on the obvious increase in police presence. County Supervisor Janice Hahn stated it was “essential” to increase visibility and that “We need law enforcement riding our buses and our train. The violence against our riders in recent days and weeks demands an urgent response.” 

The MTA is also going to improve cellphone reception in the underground stations and moving buses and create a unified command center. Plexiglass barriers to protect bus drivers are to be installed on all buses by the end of the year, and soon the board will vote on doubling the number of security officers, an increase in public safety spending by 11 percent. 

These logical steps aren’t without detractors. During the “defund” madness in 2020, “activists” called for redirecting MTA policing expenses to social programs. They argued that transit crime was “relatively low,” and that the money would be better spent on homeless outreach and free fares. Currently, LA Metro has a large group of purple-vest-wearing social workers assisting the homeless who are taking over cars and buses, jeopardizing public safety. California has spent $24 billion on homelessness in five years, which they didn’t track, while LA has spent billions more, yet the problem is worse, as is mental health and addiction. We are working on these problems, but public safety and law enforcement must be the priority. To their credit, mainstream Democrats have quietly abandoned the defund movement of the far left, as personified recently by the Democrat-dominated MTA. 

In 2022, our 25 largest cities police budgets increased from FY 2019 to 2022, most of them run by Democrats. Simply put, they tried slashing police in 2020/21 and replacing them with social programs, and it was an abysmal failure, with predictable spikes in violence and property crimes. Defunding was erroneously couched in racial and social justice terms, but polling has shown that blacks, more often victims of crime, were strongly opposed to the defund movement. It was a transitory period of insanity, whereupon radical activists like Mariame Kaba wrote an op-ed in The New York Times titled “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police.” They also advocated for abolishing prisons, and California has reduced its inmate population by 26 percent in five years, with a surplus of 15,000 empty beds. From our transit to our cities and our homes, the data is in —emptying our prisons and being soft on criminal policies have endangered us all, and citizens across the political spectrum are demanding a return to law-and-order policies.