Muni Task Force Goes the Extra Mile to Stop Crime
Though budgetary constraints affect this arena as well, new ideas and best practices must be cultivated to ensure effective levels of customer safety and security.
- Hanford-Corcoran, CA (1888PressRelease) October 22, 2011 - While customers will begrudgingly swallow the bitter pill of service reductions and fare hikes, there is zero tolerance for the perception of inadequate transit security and enforcement.
Recently, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which operates the city's bus and rail system (Muni), joined forces with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to advance an enhanced, shared ownership approach to thwarting crime on the city's bus routes and rail lines.
Spearheaded by SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley, the new enhancements to the SFMTA/SFPD arrangement include establishment of a dedicated Muni Task Force (MTF) to supplement the existing Muni Response Team and more active police department involvement in developing and implementing Muni enforcement plans through the SFPD's 10 district captains, says Nathaniel P. Ford. SFMTA also has initiated other crime abatement measures-including the robust deployment of additional video surveillance cameras on Muni vehicles and throughout the Muni system and the installation of DriveCam, a driver risk mitigation system, on all its trolleybuses and biodiesel and biodiesel-electric hybrid buses.
As a result of these and other efforts, Muni-related criminal activities, as well as operator safety violations, dropped dramatically in the last quarter of 2009.
With both the SFPD and the SFMTA acknowledging transit crime as a broader public safety issue, the two city agencies have combined their respective resources in a concerted effort to reduce criminal activity on Muni, according to Deputy Chief John Murphy, the man tasked with cracking down on Muni crime, says Nathaniel P. Ford.
Nathaniel P. Ford finds it interesting that a new SFPD Operations Bureau order drafted by Murphy uses real-time Police Department crime statistics fed into a database created by the city controller's office. The database creates charts that identify peak days, times, coaches, or rail lines where crime occurs. The district station captains use the statistics to develop their enforcement strategies on a monthly basis.
The Operations Bureau order places the onus on the SFPD district captains to develop and implement enforcement plans for their respective districts. The captains submit monthly enforcement calendars to Murphy, who uses them to coordinate enforcement operations with the MRT and MTF teams, says Nathaniel P. Ford.
The city's 10 district captains now have detailed statistics of what crimes are being committed, where, and when, and Muni has the dedicated resources of the SFPD. "We're putting cops on dots where the crimes are committed," said Murphy.
Nathaniel P. Ford recognizes another boon to enforcement has come from development of the SFPD MTF. Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration and a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) grant, this group of one sergeant and seven plainclothes officers targets the most problematic coach, rail, and trolley lines based on crime statistics. These officers conduct a variety of plainclothes enforcement operations and support the SFPD district captains in follow-up investigations and in locating perpetrators of crimes on Muni, says Nathaniel P. Ford.
Since deployment of the MTF teams began in March of this year, the number of Muni-related crimes has dropped from 114 incidents in March to 58 in May.
Additionally, Nathaniel P. Ford has beefed up deployment of video surveillance cameras on the majority of Muni vehicles and installed DriveCam surveillance cameras on its entire rubber-tire fleet. Since the introduction of the DriveCam system in November 2009, commonly identifiable infractions or "scored events" have decreased 33 percent and the severity of incidents decreased by 35 percent. DriveCam has also enabled the SFMTA to establish a recognition program and has identified 250 "Champions of Safety," drivers who have exhibited exemplary driving skills, recognizes Nathaniel P. Ford.
The agency also has deployed surveillance cameras at Metro underground platforms and various Muni facilities, tunnels, bus shelters, and terminals. These additional cameras have been valuable in resource allocation, incident investigation, identifying perpetrators of Muni crime, and assisting claims investigators, explains Nathaniel P. Ford.
With customer safety and security at the forefront of the SFMTA's priorities, the agency recently hosted the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's (FLETC) Land Transportation Anti-terrorism Training Program. More than 40 people participated in this program, a joint effort of TSA and FLETC, including SFMTA MRT officers and SFMTA transit operations, safety, security, and enforcement personnel. Other attendees included federal air marshals and representatives from the SFPD Homeland Security Unit, as well as members of the San Francisco fire and sheriff's departments.