CA: Recent assaults on LA Metro transit prompt safety proposals at Thursday board meeting

May 23, 2024
In light of a string of recent violent attacks on passengers and operators on or near trains and buses, LA Metro board members on Thursday will discuss new safety measures that could inspire a sea change in how safety is managed on the vast, Los Angeles County mass transit system.

In light of a string of recent violent attacks on passengers and operators on or near trains and buses, LA Metro board members on Thursday will discuss new safety measures that could inspire a sea change in how safety is managed on the vast, Los Angeles County mass transit system.

The topics come atop other recent safety measures that were discussed or implemented on the lines, as LA Metro responds to 10 stabbings and two shootings in the last six weeks. Of those attacks, three were fatal, including a grandmother killed by a person who had attacked Metro passengers in the past and had been released from custody. The victim was on her way home from work in the San Fernando Valley.

The latest violent incident involved a bus passenger who was stabbed on Tuesday, May 21 in Lynwood. The victim’s injuries were not life threatening, authorities reported.

“This attack on a Metro bus in Lynwood is horrific, and yet another grim reason that we need a surge of law enforcement on our transit system,” said Fourth District L.A. County Supervisor and Metro board member Janice Hahn.

In an effort to stem the tide of violent attacks the Metro board will take up two motions at its next regular board meeting at Metro Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, located adjacent to Union Station in Los Angeles. It will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday in the third floor boardroom.

One motion calls for law enforcement patrols from LAPD, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and Long Beach Police Department to physically board and walk through trains and buses, especially on those transit routes with a history of violent incidents, homeless riders and passengers who are mentally unstable or using illegal drugs such as fentanyl.

Metro board members and members of the public have complained for years that law enforcement patrols stay mostly on the platforms or in squad cars that circle stations and bus depots. Others caution that more robust patrols should not result in a disproportionate number of arrests of people of color.

The board wants the three law enforcement agency chiefs to come to its June meeting to publicly discuss patrol deployment levels, staffing, and response times — and analyze the recent violent incidents.

LA Metro on Tuesday announced that beginning May 28 it will lock the exit fare gates at the North Hollywood B Line (Red) train station, a busy and at times crime-plagued train station that connects passengers to and from downtown L.A. Under the pilot program, passengers would not be able to exit the train platform without re-tapping their TAP cards on the way out, enabling the exit fare gates to open.

If the passenger had paid, the turnstiles will open. If not, the person would be required to pay, or be cited or removed from the train system by Metro Transit Officers, according to Metro. The purpose is to ward off non-paying customers and those who may be committing crimes.

On LA Metro passengers are required to pay a fare with a cash-loaded TAP card when entering a train or bus. But having to tap upon exiting would be a first in the history of the agency. The goal is to catch those who are riding for free, mainly those who are unhoused and use the trains as a mobile shelter, or for those who do drugs.

Below is a list of the recent crimes on LA Metro that have made headlines:

  • A teenage boy was fatally stabbed at the 7th/Metro Center station in downtown L.A. on Jan. 11.
  • A man was fatally stabbed at the Westlake/MacArthur Park Station ( 651 S. Westlake Avenue, Los Angeles) on Feb. 1.
  • A No. 2 line bus was hijacked by a man with a BB gun that resembled a gun on March 21. The bus crashed into the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at West Olympic Boulevard.
  • Two people were stabbed in separate attacks at Metro B (Red) Line stations in East Hollywood at ( Hollywood/Western) and Westlake/MacArthur Park (600 block of South Bonnie Brae Street) on April 7.
  • A bus operator got punched and stabbed while driving in Willowbrook ( 119th Street and Wilmington Avenue) on April 13.
  • A man stabbed a 66-year-old woman to death at a Metro Universal City station in Studio City (3900 block of Lankershim Boulevard) on April 22.
  • A security guard was stabbed at a B Line station in Hollywood (1500 block of North Vermont Avenue) before fatally shooting his assailant on May 7, authorities said.
  • A woman was stabbed in the arm at the Metro C Line Vermont/Athens station ( South Vermont Avenue and the 105 Freeway) on Monday May 13.
  • Hours later on May 13, four teenagers fought on a bus in Glendale ( West Los Feliz Road and South Central Avenue). Two were stabbed and the other two arrested.
  • On Tuesday, May 14, a man was robbed of his cellphone and hit in the chest on a bus in Encino ( Ventura and Balboa boulevards).
  • On Thursday, May 16, a man shot another passenger to death on a Metro bus in Commerce (6200 block of Slauson Avenue), authorities reported.
  • A person was stabbed Tuesday, May 21, on a Los Angeles Metro bus in Lynwood ( Long Beach Boulevard and Norton Avenue).
  • One of the most shocking was the murder of Mirna Soza Arauz, 66, about 5 a.m. Monday, April 22 on the B Line train at the Universal City Station in Studio City.

Soza Arauz was heading home from work when she boarded the train in North Hollywood and was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack, most likely by an assailant who was mentally ill. She managed to get off the train at the Universal City Station on the 3900 block of Lankershim Boulevard where she was found mortally wounded on the platform.

She worked as a night security guard at a Tommy’s hamburger restaurant in North Hills. She was a mother of three and a grandmother of four.

Bus driver attacks have increased as well. Assaults on bus operators have increased from 92 in 2019 to 160 in 2023. The numbers continued to rise in 2024.

Bus drivers have been spit on, kicked, punched and have been the victims of more violent assaults, which led to a sick-out of drivers earlier in the month in an effort to draw attention to demands for safer working conditions. Metro is installing tempered glass barriers at the driver’s seat for protection.

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