munitoken.jpgIn the wake of even more violence on Muni last weekend this time, on the 49, the SFPD and SFMTA are getting even more pressure to find new and better ways to manage the problem. We spoke with Muni and SFPD to hear what they have planned, but ask you, dear reader, do you feel it’s enough?

Broken Cameras
When questioned about the malfunctioning cameras aboard Muni vehicles, Judson True told me that officials are in the process of fixing all cameras and other video system components as quickly as possible. In addition, they plan to design a better system for monitoring and maintaining the cameras. No time frame was offered for these repairs or the new system.

Where’s SFPD? Aren’t They Supposed To Be Riding Muni?
On Friday, Deputy Chief David Shinn of the Investigations Bureau addressed a press gathering, promising that Muni would step up patrols and the placement of undercover officers on Muni vehicles. I checked with police spokeswoman Sgt. Lyn Tomioka who confirmed that SFPD planned to run more sting operations in the near future. She declined to elaborate further, but promised that more details would be forthcoming.

But How Will We Know They’re Doing It?
As I mentioned last Friday, Nat Ford had earlier this year suggested implementing a smart card system to track the presence of officers on Muni vehicles. Judson True informed me that Muni is in the process of issuing TransLink cards to all SFPD officers. He told me that Muni hopes to have all cards distributed in the coming months.

Smart cards have been a topic of discussion since an MOU released last June gave the MTA more power in SFPD affairs pertaining to public transportation.

The MOU was issued ostensibly to better coordinate the Police Department’s traffic enforcement functions with the SFMTA’s goals for safe streets and accident reduction. As part of the MOU, Deputy Chief Antonio Parra now reports to Nat Ford and Jim Dougherty, in addition to coordinating the Muni Response Team, a task force assigned specifically to spearhead Muni related crime.

Isn’t This Going To Be Pricey?
News of cooperation is a relief, but must be viewed with the utmost scrutiny. A similar collaboration between SFPD and SFMTA resulted in the Police Department billing Muni an astounding $19 million dollars in work orders. Most of the work orders were for services such as vehicle stops, injury crashes, and traffic direction for special events. The charges hit especially hard since they came at a time when Muni was deep in the recent budget crisis.

When prodded by Supervisor Bevan Duffy, Police Department CFO Ken Bukowski qualified the excessive billing as a miscommunication stemming from the shift of responsibilities from the DPT (Department of Traffic and Parking) to the MTA.

Regardless of the reasons behind it, this overcharge is proof that any strategy for enhanced police/transit cooperation needs to come with a comprehensive plan for oversight.

In the past, solid cooperation between the police and Muni officials has resulted in exceptional case making. Last July, the cooperation between the two departments resulted in the arrest of a man charged with sexual battery aboard the N Judah line.

What’s A Muni Operator’s Responsibility During Crime On Muni?
Last weekend’s scuffle follows a deluge of coverage (including my own) of recent Muni violence. The footage of the fight is the second captured in recent weeks. Last Wednesday Muni passenger Jonathon Perel recorded a similar scuffle between two women fighting over a seat . The video has since gone viral, gaining over 180,000 hits on YouTube. (On a related note, Muni Diaries has interviewed the woman who broke up the altercation, read their conversation with her here.)

Perel told reporters at ABC7 that he recorded the altercation as evidence that drivers aren’t doing enough to stop the violence. In an interview with CBS5, Christopher Borgzinner, the victim of gang violence aboard the 9 several weeks ago, told reporters that he shared Perel’s sentiments.

With respect for the injuries suffered by both men, stopping the violence is not the responsibility of Muni operators. MTA spokesperson Judson True tells the Appeal that the protocol is to call central and make a report. True told me that “Muni operators are not law enforcement officers and should not get involved in violent incidences on their vehicles.” A Muni driver is no more qualified to involve himself in a conflict than is a man who records the fight from his videophone.

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