Photos by Stephanie Rivera.
Metro and city officials gathered at the Blue Line’s Willow Station Wednesday morning to announce the start of a multi-agency law enforcement partnership that, beginning this Saturday, will allow Long Beach police and Metro security personnel to patrol the Blue Line’s eight Long Beach stations.
Under a five-year contract unanimously approved in February by the Metro board, which includes Mayor Robert Garcia, the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD), Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) will now collaborate with Metro’s security personnel in patrolling the Metro system.
In Long Beach, that will mean about 30 officers patrolling roughly one-third of the Blue Line, spanning from the downtown sector to the last stop in North Long Beach. It will also translate to reducing response times from about 14-15 minutes to four or five minutes.
Along with faster response times, the LBPD’s staffing and operational plans will focus on increasing police visibility and deterring crime in and around this transportation corridor, according to Police Chief Robert Luna, who also noted that some of the officers who will start patrolling the stations are also participating in specialized rail safety training.
“Here in Long Beach we have a unique knowledge of our own community, its needs and its crime patterns,” Luna said. “One of the most beneficial aspects of this contract is the communication and connectivity that our police officers will have with patrol resources. This will offer enhanced overall security to the passengers while traveling in our city on the Blue Line.”
While Long Beach officers and their Metro counterparts are expected to take over fully this Saturday, a transition period has been in the works since March, when the LBPD and LAPD began to take over stops previously under the command of the LASD.
Systemwide, Metro riders will see an increase in personnel, which will result in a consistent 314 personnel over each 24-hour period, according to a release from Metro.
Aside from safety enhancements, the Blue Line is also undergoing about a billion dollars of improvements as part of a larger program, Garcia said.
Improvements include replacing old trains, rail and electric systems as well as increasing the speed of the trains and synchronizing lights across the city, according to the mayor.
“Our goal is simple and it’s to make the Long Beach Blue Line the safest line in the system,” Garcia said. “We want it to be enjoyable for all riders, we want everyone, whether they are going to work, whether they are going to downtown LA for a concert, whether folks from LA are going down to Long Beach to visit the aquarium or to come and enjoy one of our neighborhoods.”