Welcome, Muni-riding cops.
The Examiner couldn’t be happier the San Francisco Police Department is starting a long-overdue surge against the violence on our city’s public transit. Recent high-profile violence includes two stabbings — one victim an 11-year-old boy — and a cell-phone video of a fight between two women that became an international YouTube hit.
But those were just some current headlines. Even occasional readers of this newspaper’s daily police blotter feature cannot help being aware that among the main staples of San Francisco crime are grab-and-run robberies or seemingly unmotivated assaults aboard Muni buses and light-rail trains.
Often the reported transit crimes combine elements of both offenses. The perpetrators hit or grapple with a passenger to snatch away an iPod or laptop, timing the attack for a quick rear-door escape at the next stop. And commonly such crimes tend to take place on the most crowded routes, especially during afternoon rush hours. The 14-Mission bus is by far the most crime-prone line, with 95 incidents reported from January through August of this year. Runner-up 9X-San Bruno Express tallied 71 crimes in the same period.
For the first time, the SFPD will hold station captains responsible for lowering Muni criminal activity within their districts. Previously, only relatively specialized crimes were passed along to bureaus such as robbery or narcotics. Localizing clear lines of responsibility is an obvious and straightforward improvement that ought to make Muni crime prevention considerably more effective.
The Muni police campaign is likely to be a significant early test of The City’s new CompStat mapping technology, which has been credited with helping dramatically reduce crime in New York City and other major metro centers. CompStat tracks crime trends as they happen, helping police see where the crimes are being committed, where the criminals are most active and where they are most likely to strike again.
Muni officials, for their part, pledged to tighten their procedures for how drivers will now be required to report and respond to crimes they witness while on duty. It is not uncommon among the 700,000 average daily passengers to blame operators for doing nothing to stop crimes on their vehicles.
This ambitious new crackdown comes after the police were criticized earlier this year for being mostly nonexistent aboard Muni despite the millions of dollars the Municipal Transportation Agency pays annually for SFPD security. It’s about time The City took action in response to public outrage over the lawlessness aboard Muni.
During the past 12 months, police surges in the highest-crime neighborhoods proved effective, so now we should expect no less than Muni being taken back for the law-abiding majority of riders.