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Ex-Metro security chief says police patrols were so lax, they didn't notice a dead man at station

Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- A dead man was slumped over on a bench at Metro's San Pedro Street station in February. For nearly six hours, nobody checked his condition, including five Los Angeles Police Department officers who had been patrolling the platform. It took a transit ambassador doing a welfare check to see the man had died, said former Metro security chief Gina Osborn.

"They weren't even paying attention," she said. "They weren't engaged enough to see that there was a human hunched over."

Osborn, a former FBI agent, knows because she and her staff had access cameras set up around the system and over her two years at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority increasingly used them to oversee law enforcement patrols. Her conclusion: They aren't doing enough.

The security issues surrounding Metro have only grown over the last month after a string of stabbings and two killings on the system. Metro is slated to spend $195 million on law enforcement in the next fiscal year, a figure that continues to rise as the agency is exploring the development of its own police department.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass announced an increase in police deployment last week after a spate of violent crimes. And Metro is investing in a series of tactics to improve the system ahead of the 2028 L.A. Olympics, including adding transit security officers, continuing the use of transit ambassadors who assist riders, and extra cleaning at several stations.

The wave of crime comes at a critical time for Metro, which continues to expand its train system with new lines and extensions, including the LAX/Metro Transit Center Station, set to open this year.

 

The agencies that patrol the system — the LAPD, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Long Beach Police Department — said they are doing their job and working with Metro to protect riders, drivers and operators in thousands of buses and trains over more than 100 miles of rail.

"There's always room for improvement," said Donald Graham, deputy chief of the LAPD's Transit Services Bureau. "We will always continue to look and relook at what we're doing and question whether or not what we're doing is the best way to do things."

He said an internal investigation into the incident at the San Pedro Station showed that officers had been doing their job that day. They were out there to check that train riders were carrying their Tap cards to pay fares.

Over the last year, under Bass' leadership, he said, there has been an increase in arrests on the system as police crack down on drug use, trespassing and other crimes. Response times are below the city average, he said, and their mission has become more clear: engagement, interdiction to prevent situations from getting worse or escalating, and becoming a more visible presence.

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