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Half year after Metro policing changes, more serious crimes reported

asdf Spokker Jones/flickr Creative Commons

Six months into heavier policing on L.A. County's sprawling transit system, the overall number of crime reports declined slightly but reports of more serious or violent crimes have risen.

That's one takeaway from statistics recently released by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The numbers reflect an early look at the impact of major changes Metro made in 2017. 

For decades, the transit agency contracted with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department to patrol buses, trains and stations. In July, Metro handed that responsibility to the Los Angeles Police Department, the Long Beach Police Department and the sheriff’s department as part of a multi-agency contract change.

The new arrangement will cost about $650 million over five years. Metro officials billed it as a way to increase the number of officers policing the system and improve safety – a major concern for the agency as it battles falling ridership.

Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said police presence on transit has nearly doubled and the agency has seen customer perceptions of safety improve in customer surveys.

Crime data from the first six months show mixed results.

Total crime from July to December has declined slightly compared with the same period in the previous year. But several months saw an increase in the number of Part 1 crimes, a category that includes violent offenses like homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Sotero said this is a function of things getting worse before they get better.

"It is counterintuitive," he said. "When you have an increased law enforcement presence, you would expect some of these numbers to be going down but because of the increased presence, we are able to respond in real time to these incidents and get reports."

Metro expects the number of reported crimes to drop over time as the increased police presence deters more criminals.

Less serious Part 2 crimes have trended down during the same six-month period. That category includes battery, narcotics, trespassing and vandalism.

Policing on Metro transit has come under closer scrutiny in recent weeks in the wake of a viral video showing an LAPD officer forcibly removing a young woman from a train and arresting her after she refused to remove her foot from a seat.