Source: Mitch McKinley|

LOS ANGELES, CA – After a 5-year decrease in crimes buses, trains and light rail, Metro has seen a significant rise in violence on their modes of transport.

The timeframe for that decrease also went hand in hand with a new policing ideology that combined the 10efforts of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office and the Los Angeles and Long Beach Police departments.

To be fair, the decrease in crime also coincided with a substantial decrease in daily riders due to lockdowns during the pandemic. But with this latest shift, Sheriff Alex Villanueva wants his department to be the sole-source provider of policing the public transit system.

Daily rider averages have climbed back to just under 850,000, up from a pandemic low of 363,800.

The Los Angeles Times reported in September 2021 that violent crimes were up 25% from the previous year’s number. But is that really a fair comparison given the fluctuation in riders?

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To put it into better perspective, violent crime in 2021 was 9% higher than 2019, when the Metro was ramped and operating at pre-pandemic numbers.  2019 saw one homicide, 2020 had three. Based on the numbers that we were able to find, there were at least 5 in 2021.

In an effort to campaign for an exclusive contract for the LASO, Villanueva’s office released a video showing the violent crime transpiring on buses and trains.

Fox 11 shared part of that video in a story they aired on April 21.

Metro released a statement in response to Villanueva’s video.

“We are obviously disappointed that this video was created by the Sheriff’s Department to use isolated incidents over a three-year period to make a point as part of an ongoing contractual disagreement. We don’t believe its release contributed to the public good nor does it reflect the daily reality.” 

Villanueva, citing nearly 1,000 vacancies in the LASO, threatened to pull the 300 uniformed assigned to the Metro effort and assign them elsewhere.

“We have all of the personnel that are dedicated to the system — I have three jobs waiting for every single deputy. I have the ability and the need to actually redeploy the personnel where they’re actually going to be sworn peace officers working as cops, actually saving lives, preventing crime from occurring and solving crimes that occur. This is all about public safety.”

While Fox 11 reported that the sheriff was threatening to just pull his staff on July 1st, and simply walk away from a contract, it is important to know that the current multi-agency agreement expires on that day.

Villanueva notified the board that he intends to bid a full-policing services contract exclusive to LASO. The sheriff envisions a contract that affords his deputies full enforcement authority, to include Code of Conduct violations, such as loud music, trespassing and fare avoidance.

Those services are currently being handled by security guards or Metro “ambassadors.”

“We are going to bid on the entire contract,” he told reporters at a press conference. “We’re not going to bid for parts of it. We’re not going to bid for the role of being overpaid security.”

He also said that his proposal would save Metro about $30M over the current contract.

But Villanueva also said that not allowing full enforcement capability is non-negotiable.

“It’s going to be a contract where we’re going to enforce the code of conduct, fare evasion and the rule of law. That’s what we’re going to do.”

There were some members of the Metro board who had issues with the sheriff’s ultimatum.

LA County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Hilda Solis issued a statement, accusing Villanueva of politicizing the recent mass shooting on a Brooklyn subway.

“The politicizing of yesterday’s Brooklyn subway shooting by the Sheriff is beyond the pale when we should be ensuring the safety of our riders and employees.

The action by Metro to award a contract to three law enforcement agencies, the Long Beach Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was taken to improve law enforcement response,” the statement said.

“The Sheriff’s declaration of pulling out his deputies if the department isn’t awarded the full contract with Metro should alarm everyone. His sound bite of being defunded would not only be inaccurate, but he would essentially be defunding his own department if not awarded a sole contract.”

It remains to be seen if Villanueva will make good on his promise, or if he will work with Metro to renew the existing contract. Law Enforcement Today will provide updates to this story as they become available.