Amid growing concerns that Muni hasn’t gotten safer along with the rest of the city, and widespread reports that police officers rarely ride Muni though they’re required to do so, the SFPD and MTA will update the public on Muni security efforts at a Board of Supervisors committee meeting on Monday. Muni riders are being encouraged to show up and tell their stories about crime on Muni as well.
Safety on Muni has become a hot issue in the mainstream press after several horrific and widely publicized attacks, as well as a fight that was videotaped and posted on YouTube. That’s brought extra attention to an issue that surfaced during the MTA’s budget crisis this spring: the agency is paying the police department for officers to ride Muni, but riders rarely see police onboard.
The SFPD’s Bus Inspection Program requires each sergeant in a patrol division and each officer "assigned to a radio car" to make two transit inspections per shift. Officers on foot patrol are required to make at least four inspections per shift. Even though the MTA was paying for the service, officers have been a rare sight on Muni.
In June, the SFPD and the MTA announced a trial program to record and track officers on the city’s buses and trains by requiring them to tag TransLink cards when they enter and exit, and 1,300 cards were issued to officers in September as part of the pilot. SFPD has also conducted several high-profile "Operation Safe Muni" stings, first out of its Ingleside Station and then, recently, citywide. Each District Station has also developed and submitted its own transit security plan.
Supervisor Bevan Dufty called the hearing to determine if officers are regularly riding Muni now and to get a full update on SFPD’s Muni safety plans. "While we’re happy, certainly, that mainstream media have taken the gauntlet up of Muni crime, it’s been recent, but Muni crime has been a reality for folks who ride the system for years," said Boe Hayward, Dufty’s legislative aide. "Muni is a major lifeblood of this city, and our citizens should be protected on Muni just like they should be at their homes or walking the street."
Hayward said he’s looking forward to the update, but he’s equally interested in what Muni riders are seeing on the system. He said Dufty would like to hear from anyone "who would like to come and testify to their experience, whether they be a victim, whether they have witnessed it on a regular basis, or on a sporadic basis, for that matter, or, if people are like, ‘I’ve been happy with the supposed recent influx of police on buses,’ we’d like to hear that, too."
"This hearing is going to be far more powerful if we’re able to reach out to folks who are riders, rather than just have Muni and cops provide a PowerPoint," added Hayward.
Rumors have circulated of individual officers tagging multiple TransLink cards, earning credit for colleagues who aren’t actually riding Muni. Members of the public may have insight into whether this is really happening as well.
The hearing will be the first item the Supes committee addresses Monday, and public comment will come before presentations by the SFPD and MTA, so Muni riders can show up by 11 a.m. and leave as soon as they’re done speaking. Hayward encouraged anyone who can’t make it to email him with any stories.
Monday will also mark the public debut of the new SFPD deputy chief in charge of safety operations on Muni, John Murphy, who is taking over for Tony Parra. "Murphy now to some extent has a clean slate, and can really let us know what his strategy and plans are," said Hayward. "Monday will be sort of his coming out party, if you will."
Hearing on Muni safety at the Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee: Monday, November 23, San Francisco City Hall, Room 250. The public comment period will begin shortly after 11 a.m., followed by presentations by the MTA and SFPD. Muni riders with tales to tell, positive or negative, about safety on Muni, should email Boe Hayward, legislative aide to Supervisor Bevan Dufty.