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Monday, November 23, 2009

Muggings and Beatings on the Bus, Oh My! Bevan Dufty Plays Wizard of Muni

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 3:30 PM

click to enlarge JIM HERD
  • Jim Herd
The winners of the Top-3 Most Dangerous Muni Routes are: the 14-Mission, the 9X-San Bruno Express, and the 38-Geary. In that order.

But be not afraid: Supervisor Bevan Dufty is on it (or so he'd like you to think). The supervisor from the Castro continued to hone what is shaping up to be his clean-up-Muni mayoral campaign platform by listening to riders' horror stories and police promises of reform at a City Hall hearing Monday morning.
 
In case you missed the recent violent incidents in the news, there have been been plenty: A grade school student was stabbed on his way home from school while riding the bus; an actor was beaten blue, his puffy face published in the Chron. Two ladies screamed at each other and were later broadcast on YouTube, exchanging body blows for the world to see. But that's hardly the extent of it. Riders showed up at the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee this morning to detail just how uncivil things have gotten on Muni, and just how horribly a 2001 agreement between the police and Muni to keep the peace has failed.

That agreement mandated that all beat officers ride a Muni bus at least twice during their shift. But riders and Muni operators made embarrassing allegations of cops just trying to meet their quota: riding a

couple of blocks and hopping off, solving crosswords while on board, or a

single officer swiping numerous TransLink passes in order to get absent

buddies credit for a ride they didn't take.

The police, in

turn, responded that they are implementing a new program in which all

district captains must turn in a monthly plan to address Muni safety issues in their precinct. For example,

Captain David Lazar of Ingleside Station notes he's been running a Muni safety

pilot program since the beginning of October in which officers --

sometimes in uniform, sometimes in plain clothes -- have been targeting

high-crime routes at pinpointed times of the day. He's also

stationed officers to catch fare cheats at six problematic

intersections. Due to the effort, the district's officers have issued

250 citations for everything from graffiti to open alcoholic beverages

to using counterfeit Fast Passes. 

"It's no longer acceptable

for me as a captain to say ride when you want to ride," said Lazar of his orders to officers.

"It's important to give them the data so they can get on the bus when

they need to to address crime."

Before hearing from the

officers, Dufty took in numerous horror stores from riders: Tim

Bishop, (spelling for him and other public speakers is phonetic)

explained how he confronted some "unruly youths" on the T-Third line in

January after they started yelling homosexual epithets. Bishop says the

group of kids then repeatedly kicked him in the head until he was

unconscious, yet the train didn't stop and no one came to his aid. He

says the police told him it couldn't be booked as a hate crime since

they weren't calling him a "faggot" while they kicked him, but after

he'd confronted them about yelling the word "faggot."  Dufty said he'd

look into it.

Another woman, Margaret Mooney, told a similar

tale that after she touched a girl's backpack in an empty seat on a

crowded train, three girls beat her up, one kicking her in the head

with combat boots. All three then got off the train, and the driver and

other passengers didn't do a damn thing to stop it.

Gay rights

blogger Michael Petrelis showed up to tell about his wallet getting

filched on a bus to the Haight; he yelled at the driver to stop the

bus to no avail.

But the Muni drivers' hands are tied, too.

One former driver, Marcus Davis, explained how an ornery passenger cut

him behind the ear and threw beer on him. Davis stepped off the train

momentarily to collect himself, and says he later lost his job for

exiting the train. Irwin Lum, head of the local Transit Workers Union,

said that drivers are under tremendous pressure to stay on schedule,

and are trained not to get out of their seats to deal with incidents.

Their only recourse is to simply report the incident to central control.

Dufty

says he hopes to hold another hearing in a few months to hear about the

SFPD's progress in snuffing Muni crime. Dufty has a lot of political capital invested in

it, and his critics know it. The online

satirist at SF Bulldog, H. Brown made a dig at Dufty at the hearing: "The last thing we need is Pee Wee Herman running for mayor."

Dufty took it in stride. "Thank you, thank you for being here." I know you are, but what am I?

Photo   |   Jim Herd

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