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Is There a Lesson from This Weekend’s Killing on the Red Line

9:49 AM PDT on August 23, 2011

On Friday night, a fight between two men on the Red Line heading towards Hollywood ended tragically with 59 year old Jesse Garay lying dead in the train with the man who killed him standing over his fallen body.

The murderer fled the train, and the L.A. County Sheriff's Office, who polices Metro trains, buses and stations is still looking for leads.

One of the issues Streetsblog has with coverage of deadly automobile crashes is that the media tends to treat the crashes as the inevitable by product of living in the city.  Unless there is a telegenic family member or friend pushing for change in enforcement or infrastructure, the story dies in a day.

Apparently the same is true of murders on trains.

Metro Subways have run for seventeen years before anyone committed murder on the train, but this tragedy provides a chance to review security on and around the train to see if improvements are needed.  Indeed, I have yet to run across any media coverage of the killing that has asked any questions of Metro's security.  After all, the killer and slain person had a lengthy fight that accelerated before a hunting knife was drawn.

The Sheriffs - L.A. County Sheriffs are the police agency charged with keeping Metro trains, buses and properties safe.  The Sheriffs have long been accused of being more concerned with checking people's fares, and harassing regular travelers everytime there's a TAP "upgrade" creates chaos.

On Saturday night, when having armed, trained security with arrest powers would have been life saving, the Sheriffs were nowhere to be seen.  If passenger safety is truly the top concern, shouldn't there be more Sheriffs on off-peak, later hour trains and less when the trains are crowded and filled with professionals?

Cell Phones - Having cell phone coverage for Metro Subway probably wouldn't have prevented the murder, but it might have helped apprehend the suspect.  And hey, New York has already figured out how to provide cell service underground.

 Cameras - If I try to film a Streetfilm at an Orange Line Station, a voice from on high yells at me until I stop because Metro can watch me on a camera.  But inside the subway, there is no camera system to catch the face of the potential killers.

Fare Gates - Back when the Metro Board of Directors was heroically saving Angelenos from terrorists by requiring the terrorists to pay $1.50 before they could get on a train, then-CEO Roger Snoble hinted that the agency would be able to add other features to the gates including x-ray scans.  When a passenger is murdered by someone wielding a hunting knife, you can expect some discussion of spending even more on those incredibly useful gates.

There has only been one death on L.A.'s Subways due to murder, but that doesn't mean that Metro, or the Sheriffs, are doing everything they can to keep the subways safe.  It will be interesting to see if there are any changes coming or proposed for Metro Rail.

(Thanks to thedudeabides for kicking my butt into gear on this one.)

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