Metro Los Angeles' Blue Line light rail passes through DTLB on its way to the transit mall. Photo by Brian Addison.
Metro Los Angeles' Blue Line light rail passes through DTLB on its way to the transit mall. Photo by Brian Addison.

Crime on the Long Beach portion of the Blue Line has dropped dramatically since the Long Beach Police Department entered into a contract to patrol stations in the city, the department announced this week. But it may have come courtesy of an aggressive police presence.

According to a Thursday press release from the department, part 1 crimes (which includes rape, robbery and aggravated assault) have dipped by 50 percent from July 2017 to July 2018, while part 2 crimes (less serious crimes like vandalism, drug violations, disorderly conduct and assaults) have dropped by 80 percent.

The department did not provide raw statistics to compare arrests previous to July 2017, when it started patrolling the Blue Line.

An examination of the past year of crime statistics disclosed in monthly reports by Metro show that these decreases in crime are coupled with a sharp rise in arrests by Long Beach officers on the Blue Line. While only policing about 4 miles of track and eight rail stations, the LBPD logged 1,450 arrests in the last year—which amounts to more than half of all arrests throughout the 98-mile, 93-station rail system.

The figures represent the 13-month span from July 2017 to July 2018—the latest figures made available by Metro—excluding June 2018, which was not found in Metro’s monthly reporting records.

The areas outside of Long Beach are patrolled by the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff Department deputies.

Over the past year, the Blue Line as a whole saw by far the largest numbers of arrests (2,018 arrests), with the Green Line (293 arrests) and Gold Line (114 arrests) rounding out the top three.

LBPD began patrolling Blue Line stations in July 2017 after the Metro board of directors unanimously approved a five-year, $646 million contact earlier that year.

The contract gave the city $30 million to patrol eight stations in Long Beach over a five-year period, and the agency entered into similar contracts with the LAPD and the LASD.

The local department, which patrols about one-third of the Blue Line, has since accounted for nearly 72 percent of all arrests made along the Blue Line by all three agencies, and has given out over 65 percent of all citations along the route.

Systemwide, LBPD has made 54.5 percent of all arrests, but has issued only about 7 percent of all citations. Other lines patrolled by the LAPD like the Red, Orange and Silver totaled just 155 arrests total but logged over 12,000 citations.

“The officers are doing an amazing job and we want to highlight that,” said LBPD spokesperson Arantxa Chavarria. “We can’t comment or speculate on why the sheriff’s department or LAPD’s numbers are different.”

The segment that the LBPD patrols starts in Downtown and ends at the Wardlow Station, which is about a 4-mile stretch.

Metro officials said safety concerns may be a reason why ridership has sagged in recent years. Putting local officers on trains was the proposed solution to both promoting a safe riding atmosphere, but also cutting down on response times, which were near 15 minutes.

LBPD also announced Thursday that its response time improved to 2.38 minutes, below the network average.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the men and women of our Department for their outstanding success in reducing crime and disorder on the Blue Line during the first year of our contract,” LBPD Chief Robert Luna said in a statement. “This is a true testament of the commitment, professionalism of our personnel and the partnerships we have developed with our community.”

Mother of Man Crushed by Metro Train While Fleeing Police Sues Unnamed Parties

Since July 2017, the Blue Line has seen a few high profile crimes, including a man who was stabbed at the Anaheim Station near a year ago. In November, a knife-wielding man was struck by a hit-and-run driver after fleeing from LBPD officers. Last month a video of an unconscious Blue Line passenger being dragged off the train and left on the platform went viral, but the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office declined to file charges.

In the year that the LBPD has patrolled Blue Line stations, two people have died after being struck by the Blue Line: one was believed to have been a suicide while the other is the focus of a federal lawsuit filed last month by the family of man who died after being pinned between a train and the platform at the Wardlow Station after a struggle with police.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.