Each Giants home game, more than 5,000 fans board Caltrain and the dozens who are rowdy turn train cars into tailgate parties.
Some form of reported violence or rowdiness occurs on average nearly every other home game, according to Caltrain documents provided to The San Francisco Examiner.
Over the course of 137 home games this season and last, 64 incidents of theft, rowdiness, or violence occurred on platforms, trains, or lobbies within two hours following Giants games, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Transit Police Bureau, which Caltrain contracts for security.
Additionally, of the 66 felony or misdemeanor arrests between April and October 2010 on Caltrain platforms, trains or lobbies, 13 of those arrests occurred during the two hours following Giants games. As of July 23, this season’s arrests within two hours stood at 18.
But the actual number may be higher as incidents remain unreported for a bevy of reasons.
Not all disturbances aboard the trains are reported by conductors, who generally only notify transit police if they need assistance, according to San Mateo County Transit District Secretary Martha Martinez.
Furthermore, if incidents occur at the Fourth and King station in San Francisco, it is possible the incident is never recorded by transit police.
And while two to six officers ride on trains before the game, police do not ride the trains after the games, when most of the serious outbreaks occur, according to Lt. Victoria O’Brian of the Sheriff’s Transit Police Bureau.
“It’s an officer safety issue and it’s a manpower issue,” said O’Brian, adding that police keep in touch with conductors, shadowing trains in their vehicles in case help is needed.
“We definitely encounter more issues on game days than on nongame days, but that’s obvious,” O’Brian said. “The more people that take the trains the more problems we have.”
A postgame brawl in the crowded bike car June 7 involved a large group of seemingly drunken Giants fans. The melee continued until the train stopped at a station where officers could break up the disturbance, according to Caltrain. No arrests were made.
“It was hard to sort out in any concrete way who did what to whom and how much attention any particular individual deserved,” Caltrain spokesman Mark Simon said of the scene. Brawls on trains are “extremely rare,” Simon added.
Caltrain is the only Bay Area transit agency to allow the consumption of alcohol on trains. According to the Bay Rail Alliance, a transit advocacy group, fights involving inebriated ballgame fans led the agency to ban alcohol consumption on the trains after 9 p.m. on game days. Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said she did not know why the policy was implemented.
Peter Crawford and Nick Sours were both given tickets for underage possession of alcohol while getting off the train to Thursday night’s game against the Houston Astros.
“It’s the kind of thing to do if you’re going to a Giants game,” said Sours, a San Carlos resident who attends Seattle University. “That’s why you take the train — so you don’t drink and drive.”
Crawford, a student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, agreed.
“That’s why I don’t go to Dodgers games,” he said. “Because you have to drive.”
But even when fights aren’t breaking out, crowded trains are often packed to the brim exacerbating any volatile situations, say passengers and conductors.
Two conductors, who spoke to The Examiner anonymously fearing retribution from Caltrain, said the crowded trains only exasperate any volatile situations.
“It’s mayhem,” said one conductor, who added that he refused to work game days because of the crowds, drinking and fights. On average, Caltrain carries roughly 44,000 commuters per day with an additional 5,000 on game day.
“You have to sit in the stairwell because there’s no seats,” said commuter Liz Henton said.
Dunn said employees carefully count the number of passengers boarding each train to ensure they don’t exceed 1,000, but the agency has admitted the crowds are an issue.
“It is difficult for crews to control crowd behavior on trains jammed with hundreds of exuberant baseball fans,” Caltrain’s Andrea Mills recently wrote in response to a customer complaint.
66: Total Caltrain felony or misdemeanor arrests during the 2010 season
13: Arrest within two hours of Giants games during the 2010 season
18: Arrests within two hours of Giants games from April to July 23 this year