Los Angelenos are avoiding taking public transportation as open drug use, violence and fatal overdoses soar, according to recent reports.
“We don’t even see business people anymore. We don’t see anyone going to Universal. It’s just people who have no other choice [than] to borrow the system, the homeless and drug addicts,” an unidentified train conductor told the Los Angeles Times.
Serious crimes such as aggravated assault, murder and rape on Los Angeles trains and buses rose 24% last year from 2021, while other less serious crimes rose by 14%, reported the Los Angeles Daily News.
The skyrocketing lawlessness has left many passengers unhappy, with Los Angeles subway security guard Gina Osborn reporting last month that the agency had seen a 99% year-over-year increase. other passengers’ complaints about other passengers possessing or using drugs. The LA Metro received 1,385 reports of narcotics use last year alone, according to the LA Daily News.
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The train driver who spoke to the LA Times said he saw ‘horror’ on a daily basis, citing how he saw a man masturbating on a seat earlier that day and often saw ‘sleepers’ – of people who did drugs and fall asleep on the train – on its journeys.
In March, at least 22 people died on public transportation from a suspected drug overdose, more than the 21 people who died for various reasons in 2022, according to the LA Times.
Violence and drug use have apparently kept Los Angelenos away from public transportation, with ridership on the Gold Line, which connects East Los Angeles to Union Station, just 30% of pre-pandemic levels in January, depending on the point of sale. The Red Line, which runs from downtown Los Angeles to North Hollywood, saw just 56% of its pre-pandemic levels in January.
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Transit officials responded to spikes in crime by pledging $122 million to a program last year to deploy 300 ambassadors to public transportation. The ambassadors are unarmed and report crimes while helping some passengers.
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“I think there’s something in the culture of the constituency public, that if they know there’s someone who is empowered to report [illegal activity] it can have a chilling effect on the activity itself,” Metro chief executive Stephanie Wiggins told the LA Times.
However, reporting drug-related crimes to the police often leads to dead ends, the outlet found. Police arrested 49 people on the red line in the last three months of 2022, but only one led to a complaint being filed in February.
Drug possession in California is often considered a misdemeanor, and such cases fall into the ranks of importance when stacked against more serious crimes.
Criminals are also targeting maintenance workers at MacArthur Park/Westlake Station, where 22,000 people board trains daily, stealing their cars, according to the LA Times. The station is next to a notorious open-air drug market, with gangs controlling many of the vendors.
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“It’s the most difficult [station] versus drug use,” Conan Cheung, Metro’s chief operating officer, told the LA Times from the MacArthur Park/Westlake station. “People are hanging out there in the plaza and it’s spilling over into the adjoining areas making it even more of an emergency.”
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