Riders of the San Francisco Muni buses and light rail cars have been rightfully freaked out over the last two months, amid incidents including — but not limited to — the creepy prowlings of the so-called ‘Muni groper’, a woman being dragged off a bus, beaten and robbed by a gang of ten teens and another woman’s hair being set on fire on the 9-San Bruno. That’s not even counting the infamous teen mob on BART that robbed seven people in Oakland two weeks ago.
Local public transit riders may have a justifiable sense of the heebie-jeebies, but the City and County of San Francisco notes in a just-released report that crime on Muni is at a five-year low, with an average of 6.5 crimes reported per 100,000 miles of Muni service.
“The crime rate on Muni continued to decline following [a 2013] boost in police presence at stations and on vehicles,” the analysis says. “In addition, improved surveillance equipment and the efforts of the SFPD Muni Task Force have resulted in a nearly 100 percent apprehension rate for alleged crimes committed on Muni vehicles. Data-driven police deployment to high-crime Muni lines has and will continue to have a positive impact on Muni security.”
The crime data comes from the San Francisco Police Department reports of crimes on or around Muni buses. This criteria was changed in 2013 to include reports of crimes around Muni buses as well as those reported on the buses, doubling the number of reported crimes. But the number of reported crimes is now back to pre-2013 levels, which the city report attributes to “identifying criminal activity and applying data-driven police deployment to high-crime Muni lines, with targeted enforcement where it is most needed.”
Feel safer now? Maybe you should, maybe you shouldn’t. As Streetsblog SF noted in a recent op-ed, the criteria may still be flawed and inaccurate. “That metric is connected to vehicle miles, not passenger miles,” Andy Bosselman wrote. “An average of 32,380 fewer people got on Muni every day in February  compared to a year ago. Any drop in crime could just be a byproduct of fewer people riding the system.”