Sep 15, 2023 - News

MTS beefs up transit security

A Trolley at the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego

A Trolley pulls into Santa Fe Depot. Photo: Dünzlullstein bild via Getty Images

The Metropolitan Transit System is significantly increasing its security force in hopes of changing the public view that it's unsafe.

Driving the news: MTS' board voted Thursday to hire 34 new inspectors to enforce penalties for quality-of-life infractions on Trolleys and buses, a more than 50% increase over the 62 inspectors manning the system today.

  • MTS will spend $3.7 million on the 34 new inspectors, and 13 additional hires in supporting positions.

Why it matters: MTS leaders said they hope increasing the visibility of security forces will combat public perception that the system is unsafe, after a rider survey last year found "the overwhelming top response" to improve the system was "more security."

Context: There were two high-profile killings at MTS Trolley stations in August — but the agency's security force has faced scrutiny for years, especially after the in-custody death of a mentally ill man in 2019, which led the agency to reform.

By the numbers: MTS employed 53 code compliance inspectors in 2019 and 2020, and increased that to 62 inspectors in 2021. The total will now jump to 96.

What they're saying: San Diego Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe praised MTS for conducting focus groups to understand why riders felt unsafe.

  • "We heard quite a bit about folks who were struggling with homelessness or mental health challenges, so let's keep that at the forefront of this, so we have outreach workers in addition to security," she said.

Of note: Montgomery Steppe, who joined the unanimous vote for the security increase, is running for county supervisor and was attacked by law enforcement groups throughout the primary as soft on crime.

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