Police have a new tool for their belts — a Muni fare-evasion ticket book.
After an hour-long briefing, about 100 San Francisco Police Department officers went to different Muni stops throughout The City on Wednesday for a daylong crackdown.
Officers are already supposed to ride the bus during their shifts, but when police ride public transportation, the focus has been on looking out for crimes such as vandalism and theft. On Wednesday, however, officers went further by checking for proof of payment, a task usually performed by the Municipal Transportation Agency.
The crackdown also focused on high-crime lines in each police district, which are outlined on handouts to be given to officers in the future. The peak time is between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., Ingleside Station Capt. David Lazar said.
“Don’t just ride a bus whenever you feel like it,” Lazar told the roomful of officers. “Ride a bus when all the action is happening.”
At 2 p.m. near Fourth and Mission streets on Wednesday, the action mostly involved bus riders who didn’t pay their fares. Police remained at the stop as several 14-Mission buses stopped outside the Metreon.
Each officer would take a door of the bus, walk inside and ask riders for proof of payment. Passengers who didn’t have it got off the bus looking sheepish, confused, angry or all three. The first three buses netted about six fare evaders who each were then given $75 tickets.
Lt. Jason Cherniss said the idea is to police public transportation much like it is done in Europe. The program has already been tried in the area covered by Ingleside Station.
“Every bus rider in the Ingleside is used to the idea already,” Cherniss said. “They have their tickets already out when we board.”
The citywide operation was meant only for one day, prompting some concern over whether it will make a lasting impact on Muni crime. The latest Muni statistics show that crime on public transportation has remained steady, while crime in the rest of The City has decreased.
Supervisor Bevan Dufty scheduled a hearing for Nov. 23 to check the progress of police. He said that he believes officers can spend more time on public transportation while still paying attention to other crimes.
“I think the numbers are showing us that things aren’t good on Muni right now,” Dufty said. “You’ll see less crime there when people don’t know when police will get on and off a bus.”
Muni repairs have increased the number of working onboard video cameras by 75 percent since a series of highly publicized conflicts exposed the transit agency’s failing security system.
Neither the stabbing of an 11-year-old passenger nor the death of a transient on a bus were recorded because onboard security cameras were not functioning at the time of the incidents. An internal audit of Muni vehicles later revealed that less than half — 48 percent — had cameras that were fully functional.
Since that audit was performed, Muni has invested $1.2 million to step up its maintenance efforts on the cameras, and the work appears to be paying off.
On Tuesday, transit agency chief Nathaniel Ford announced that 84 percent of Muni vehicles now have surveillance cameras that are fully functional, with the agency working hard to get that number to 100 percent.
— Will Reisman