By Peter Daut, November 5, 2015
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Nearly every day, roughly 45,000 people ride the Metro Gold Line.
The light rail runs 20 miles from East Los Angeles to Pasadena, serving 21 stations.
And starting next year, it will extend 12 more miles to Montclair, serving an additional six stations.
But before that happens, one woman from South Pasadena, who did not want to show her face, has a warning.
“Something bad can happen,” she said. “I found that out the hard way.”
The 83-year-old grandmother says in 2012 a man got off the
Gold Line in South Pasadena, wandered into her neighborhood and broke
into her home, where he robbed and brutally attacked her.
“And he just kept calling me names and hitting me,” she
said. “I kept thinking to myself, ‘How many times can a person be hit in
the head before they go unconscious?’ ”
That’s when she says her grandchildren arrived and the
attacker took off. The woman suffered a concussion, broken nose and a
Police quickly arrested Alonzo Johnson, 52, in connection with the
attack. Police said Johnson was running to get back onto the Gold Line.
Investigators said Johnson is suspected of committing at least five
crimes near Gold Line stations. His ticket from downtown Los Angeles was
paid for by a Skid Row charity.
“It’s easy for them to troll when they’re given that opportunity,”
the woman said. “It doesn’t take them very long to get from one end of
town to the other.”
Since the Gold Line began operation in 2003, police say, it has become a “conduit for criminals.”
“When they could take the bus, they could take a bicycle, but in this
case right now they’re taking the train,” Cpl. Bill Earley of the South
Pasadena Police Department said.
“We’ve had a huge increase of crime near the Gold Line station and in the general area since it’s opened up,” Earley said.
Police say the problem has exploded in the past year because of
Proposition 47, which downgraded many theft and drug possession crimes
from felonies to misdemeanors.
Both South Pasadena and much larger Pasadena say they’ve seen
double-digit increases in burglaries, robberies and vehicle robberies.
Both departments say easy access to the Gold Line has given easy access to criminals.
A CBS2 news crew was with police when they arrested a man suspected
of stealing expensive baby formula and coffee from a South Pasadena
Police said they also uncovered several syringes.
Officers said they found the man on his way to the Gold Line. He,
according to police, had a Metro map sticking out of his back pocket.
Police said they arrested the man on outstanding warrants for drug
possession, but normally would have to let him go because of Proposition
“I think we’re handcuffed more than the suspects are,” Earley said.
But Metro officials say there’s been no data that shows any increase
in crime or that criminals have been taking the Gold Line into South
“This is not an unsafe community by any means,” said Paul Gonzales, a
Metro spokesman. “There is … nothing that could support an allegation
that the Metro Gold Line brings criminals to South Pasadena.”
Despite what police say, Metro says federal data shows crime has actually gone down near the South Pasadena station.
“It has had a decreasing crime rate since 2007,” Gonzales said.
Regardless, communities like Azusa, where the Gold Line will extend,
are embracing it and recently held a dedication ceremony for the
Supporters say it provides reliable public transportation, cuts down
on traffic and leads to economic development, including in South
Pasadena, where numerous shops and restaurants have gone up near the
But the grandmother CBS2 spoke with says the Gold Line also has a dark side people need to be aware of.
“We can’t all be prisoners in our own homes, so the only thing one can do is just be careful and cautious,” she said.
The man arrested in connection with the attack on the woman in this piece is awaiting trial.
Meanwhile, Metro says police should focus their frustration on Proposition 47 and leave the public transit system out of it.