San Francisco police will soon have more officers on San Francisco Municipal Railway trains and buses as part of a new cooperative effort between the agencies to combat crime and fare evaders.
The agreement is modeled on new police Chief George Gascon’s implementation of the CompStat crime pattern tracking system, which relies on the recording of detailed statistics to identify crime patterns and hold individual police captains responsible for the crimes in their districts.
Deputy Chief John Murphy, the new head of police operations on Muni, told a Board of Supervisors committee at a hearing today on Muni passenger safety that riders will see an increased presence of uniformed officers on the bus and light-rail lines identified as having the most problems with onboard crime such as assaults, thefts and graffiti. Enforcement will also be targeted at peak crime hours.
“Our goal here … is to reduce crime on Muni, and reduce the fear of crime on Muni,” Murphy said.
There will also be plainclothes officers to help arrest what Murphy described as the few suspects responsible for a majority of the crimes on Muni.
“Starting today, forward, crime is going to be addressed in a different way,” he said, adding, “The onus is going to be on the district captains.”
A revision in the memorandum of understanding between the San Francisco Police Department and the SFMTA calls for the deployment of resources to be based on crime analysis, community complaints and the concerns of Muni operators.
The two agencies will also be cooperating on increased fare evasion enforcement efforts, and on public service campaigns providing tips on Muni safety and protecting oft-stolen possessions such as cell phones and iPods.
Today’s hearing, called by Supervisor Bevan Dufty, included public comment from a number of Muni riders, some of whom spoke of their own brushes with crime and unruly behavior on Muni.
Tim Bishop, a city resident for 13 years, said he was accosted by several rowdy youths on a Muni train in January after they used an anti-gay slur and he confronted them. He said he was attacked from behind, beaten until unconscious, and then kicked in the head.
“Nobody helped me out,” Bishop said. He added that police didn’t arrive for 20 minutes and his attackers have still not been arrested.
Howard Williams identified himself as a longtime, regular Muni rider and said his experience with transit in other parts of the world has left San Francisco wanting.
“I have to say that my best experience was in Pakistan,” Williams said.
“The driver has backup,” he said, recommending that Muni operators be given a conductor to work with onboard, in addition to police.
“I don’t want to pay for cameras that don’t work, I want to pay for people that do,” Williams said.
A few recent high-profile crimes on Muni, including the stabbing of an 11-year-old boy in September on a bus that had a malfunctioning onboard video camera, brought media attention to the issue.
Jim Dougherty, Muni’s safety director, said today that 90 percent of Muni’s bus fleet now have fully functioning cameras, and they’re working on the rest, he said.
Margaret Mooney, another city resident, recounted an incident that she said took place over three years ago on an overcrowded Muni train. She said she was assaulted by three girls after asking one of them to remove her backpack from the empty seat next to her.
Mooney said she was kicked and beaten and left on the floor of the train.
“And not a single person came to my aid,” she said.
Irwin Lum, president of the union representing local transit workers, said that many assaults on Muni operators also go unreported.
With expectations to make their routes on schedule, drivers sometimes also have to “act as a policeman with little help or backup,” Lum said.
Marcus Davis said he began working as a Muni operator in 2002. He said he’d been assaulted three times, and was fired by Muni after the third incident, when a female rider refused to get off his train and then cut him behind the ear with a knife and threw beer on him.
Davis said he stopped the train to check on his condition and to get a description of the woman who attacked him.
“I got no response from Central Control,” Davis said, while the woman remained at the scene, “ranting, raving and cursing.”
Not only did he get no assistance from Muni, but he was subsequently fired, Davis said.
“They said I should never have got off the train,” he said.
Dougherty today offered his own apologies to those who were assaulted or had other negative experiences on Muni and said his agency was working to address safety issues.
Dufty said he called the hearing because the previous understanding between police and Muni had “no accountability” and that follow-up by SFMTA and police on reports of crime aboard Muni was poor.
“I think that we’ve created a situation here that there’s not much expectation that if you do something … that someone’s going to be held accountable,” he said.
Dufty said after the hearing that he was satisfied with the progress that’s being made on Muni safety enforcement.
“We will basically drive deployment by data, and I think that’s fine,” he said.
Dufty noted that the changes are in “the beginning stages” and he pledged to call additional hearings “until the public starts telling me that they see things differently.”