Harassment and violence on Muni transit is a “very serious problem” to 28 percent of San Francisco students and “somewhat serious” to another 30 percent. In fact, at 58 percent it is the No. 2 worry of city K-12 students. This is only three points behind the 61 percent of students worried about lack of job opportunity. Dangerous fellow-passengers on Muni were rated a more serious problem than fights at school, lack of after-school activities and trouble connecting with peers.
The large-scale survey of 8,144 students was conducted in February. And readers of The Examiner’s daily Police Blotter feature can easily see the validity of those transit violence concerns. Strong-arm robbery or assault and battery on crowded buses is a regular staple of police reports.
Many such incidents take place during the after-school commute period and involve groups of teen offenders.
Muni transit has actually become a main target for crimes of opportunity during the busiest and traditionally safer hours of daylight and early evening. A prototype Muni crime report would involve several aggressive teens grabbing an iPod, cell phone, laptop computer or purse from an individual, often with pushing or hitting involved.
The attackers then exit the bus at the next stop. If the police can be contacted quickly enough and the culprits foolishly remain out on nearby streets, officers can good results by driving through the neighborhood with the victim to promptly identify the perpetrators, make arrests and recover the loot.
Spokespersons for the Safe School Task Force — consisting of representatives from theSan Francisco Unified School District, Muni and the Police Department — said the team constantly works on ways to make public transit safer for students. Muni procedure during outbreaks of disorder is stop the bus and call police. Often as not, the offenders escape, but sometimes they can be identified from the onboard video.
Additionally, Muni workers are assigned to ride buses along with students to minimize conflicts, and they work with school-based police to focus on recurring problems.
These measures are all commendable, and the situation would likely be even worse without them. But obviously it is not enough for the nearly two-thirds of San Francisco students who fear Muni violence.
Transit crime prevention requires stationing sufficient guards aboard the vehicles.
This is expensive but could be made less so by testing a pilot program for hiring some of those young adults who are “worrying about their lack of job opportunity” and would gladly enter a work program.