The monthly crime rate on Muni vehicles has dropped by nearly 50 percent in the past six months, a decrease police officials are attributing to a new strategy that puts undercover officers on the most-troublesome transit lines.
The Police Department recorded 62 crimes on Muni in June, a 45 percent decrease from January’s 114.
In March, the SFPD began its Muni task force program. A squad of seven plainclothes officers is assigned to monitor criminal activities such as pickpocketing, vandalism and robbery that regularly occur on public transportation vehicles.
Since the program was implemented, the number of monthly incidents on Muni vehicles has dropped precipitously, from 114 in March to 102 in April and 62 each in May and June. The Taraval police district saw the biggest drop, with the number of incidents decreasing from 11 in January to zero in June. The specific type of crime incidents was not detailed in the report, which was presented at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors meeting Tuesday.
Deputy police Chief John Murphy called the department’s Muni task force “our ‘21 Jump Street’ officers,” a reference to a 1980s TV show about undercover police.
“They’re young, energetic officers, and they have been doing a wonderful job on our most-problematic lines,” Murphy said.
Murphy also credited the Police Department’s greater use of information sharing to determine which Muni lines were the most-problematic, and thus the focus of the greatest enforcement attention. A police report released in March showed that the 14-Mission, 38-Geary and 9-San Bruno bus routes had the highest number of incidents.
Through June 29, police have recorded 569 incidents on Muni vehicles, an average of about three a day, according to Murphy. About 700,000 people ride Muni daily.
Unlike the Police Department’s normal squad of 11 full-time officers dispatched to deter crime on Muni, the undercover task force is supported through grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so its presence comes at no extra cost to the transit agency.
Also, the task force is not involved in police-saturation efforts to enforce fare payment on Muni vehicles.
By Sarah Haughey
Special to The Examiner
Many Muni riders say they feel safer on trains and buses following a stepped-up police presence on the transit vehicles.
“I still pay attention to my surroundings, but I generally feel pretty safe,” Muni rider Sharon Maxwell said as she tried to catch a train at the Embarcadero station. “It does seem like there have been more police and Muni workers around than there were before.”
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said Tuesday that Muni-related crimes were down nearly 50 percent in the past six months.
“It’s definitely scary to watch the news about robberies and violence occurring on the Muni,” commuter Danielle Detloff said. “I don’t ride it that much, but I do feel safe. I haven’t experienced anything suspicious.”
The Police Department already has a regular squad of 11 officers working to prevent crime on Muni, but following several high-profile incidents last year, The City decided to make a stronger initiative to curb crime.
“It used to be really bad down here. One of my friends was robbed a couple years ago,” Muni rider Mark Lloyd said. “It seems like it’s cleaned up quite a bit.”