By Laura J. Nelson, September 4, 2014
Sheriff's deputies man the platform at the Hollywood and Highland Red Line Metro station.
Following a bruising audit
that criticized the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for failing
to reduce violent crime on Metro trains and buses, transportation
officials Thursday proposed new regulations to tighten oversight of the
lucrative policing contract.
In a motion proposed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the chairman
of the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority, board members
asked for several new Metro staff members who would keep tabs on key
contract benchmarks, including fare evasion, system safety and response
times. The board also asked Metro's inspector general, the internal
agency watchdog, to audit the transit police contract every two years.
audit, written by an outside firm and commissioned by Metro officials,
also faulted the transit agency itself for weak oversight of the
"We didn't hit some of the most basic things that are
part of the contract," Garcetti said during a meeting at Metro's
downtown headquarters. "We have failed on the oversight."
The push comes as officials weigh awarding a three-year security
contract expected to cost about $400 million. The transit police
agreement with the Sheriff's Department expires Dec. 31.
Department officials said they agree with the majority of the findings
and are working to correct the issues raised in the audit.
Commuters wait for an eastbound train at the 7th St. Metro station.
Auditors said transit police struggled to maintain a "felt presence"
on Metro's sprawling transit system, which has more than 85 miles of
commuter rail tracks, dozens of train stations and thousands of buses.
Their blistering report found a host of management and safety problems
over the last five years of contracted service, which has cost Metro
more than $365 million.
Auditors also noted some improvement in
recent months, including more fare checks and citations. The agency has
also struggled to gauge how many passengers are riding for free.
The Sheriff's Department was tasked with reducing crime on the Metro
system by 8% a year, but total reported assaults, robberies and other
crimes increased 28% in 2012 and 8.5% in 2013, according to the audit.
Over a four-year study period, aggravated assaults climbed 75% to 280 in
2013, while robberies increased 43% to 407, according to FBI statistics
included in the study.
Deputies do not have a coordinated plan
for policing the countywide bus and rail system, the audit found, and do
not have a "felt presence" on transit and in stations. It also found
that the department has no way to quickly route emergency calls to other
law enforcement agencies when help is needed.
are fewer than 100 sheriff's deputies patrolling the system at any
given time of day, officials said during the Thursday board meeting.
Department response times appeared to meet Metro contract requirements,
but paint a misleading picture, the auditors wrote. They said that's
partly because the department begins tracking response time when a
deputy is dispatched, not when a call for help is received.
talk to customers about safety on Metro, they will not use your
standard," board member Jacqueline Dupont-Walker told sheriff's
officials. What matters to customers, she said, is that uniformed
deputies arrive as soon as possible.
The Sheriff's Department has been Metro's lone law enforcement agency for more than a decade. The Los Angeles Police Department lost the contract in 2003.