Sheriff Villanueva Addresses Public Safety Concerns at LA Metro
Public Safety Concerns Regarding LA Metro Policing Services
On Wednesday, November 17, 2021, Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Chief Gene Harris from the Los Angeles County Police Chief’s Association, along with Special Operations Division Chief Jack Ewell and Transit Services Bureau Captain Shawn Kehoe, held a press conference to address public safety concerns for LA Metro and the pending vote to significantly alter dedicated law enforcement services as we know them.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is contracted to provide police services for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to areas within Los Angeles County. As part of a transit policing team, LASD works with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) and Metro Security Services, to ensure the safety of transit riding patrons and Metro employees. The LASD Transit Services Bureau (TSB) is comprised of over 300 personnel, including personnel specially trained to handle: transit patrol services, transit mental evaluation, transit homeless services, explosive detection, canines, transit special assignments, transit investigations, transit dispatch, and transit support. All of these components are essential for the safety of public transportation users.
On June 18, 2020, on a motion by Metro Board of Directors Bonin, Garcetti, Hahn, Dupont-Walker, and Solis, authorized the creation of the “Public Safety Advisory Committee.” This committee developed a new scope of services, budget, and other provisions for the multi-agency police contract renewal.
On November 3, 2021 this official paid advisory committee voted, 14 to zero, to recommend abolishing all three policing contracts, shifting the burden of policing to local agencies and using the $75 million to fund undefined alternatives such as non-profits and yet-to-be developed Metro Ambassadors. The recommendation from this newly-created committee will be considered by the Metro Board of Directors on November 18, at their “Operations, Safety, and Customer Experience” committee meeting, and on December 2, by the full MTA Board of Directors.
“If we’re re-imagining things without any input, any serious consideration for what the outcomes could be, then what we might as well start doing is imagining of the carnage that it’s going to ensue. The chaos that’s going to happen when we don’t have law enforcement officials to address the situations we just heard,” said Chief Gene Harris.
Prior to the pandemic, in 2019 over 370 million people rode Metro, an average of over one million riders a day. Post pandemic, over 200 million riders per year used the metro. Although there was a reduction of riders due to the pandemic, crime remained
constant. In the past three years, there have been 6 murders, 26 rapes, and 1,450 robberies or assaults on the Metro. The statistics show the need to increase the number of law enforcement officers, not abolish them.
Sheriff Villanueva planned to show a video clip with a compilation of crimes that occurred on the transit system but Stephanie Wiggins, Metro’s CEO, refused to consent to the release of the videos because it would harm public trust in the Metro system and it would also constitute a breach of contract between Metro and the Sheriff’s Department. Instead, Sheriff Villanueva described the eight violent crimes.
“We need to take these matters seriously because lives are at stake, lives are being endangered on the system and that callous disregard for the safety of the passengers is alarming and I think every single member of the MTA Board of Directors needs to be held accountable,” said Sheriff Villanueva.
Ultimately, voting to defund police services for LA Metro will hurt public safety, especially for those community members who have no other choice but to rely on public transportation.
Press Conference Video
Material Used During the Press Conference
Powerpoint – PDF
Part 1 Crimes 2019-2021 – PDF
Videos of Crimes Occurring on the Transit Systems – PDF
Transit Agency 4 Year Comparison – PDF
Defund Movement – PDF
MTA Crisis Letter to Supervisor Solis from Capt. Kehoe – PDF
LACPCA Letter to Supervisor Solis – PDF