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