ABC7's Marc Brown takes firsthand look at conditions on Metro Red Line as safety concerns persist

Marc Brown Image
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Riding the Red Line: Concerns over passenger safety persist
Amid an increase in violent crime on the Metro Red Line over the past several years, ABC7's Marc Brown took a ride on the subway train to see conditions are like these days.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Violent crime on the Metro Red Line subway, which dipped during the coronavirus pandemic, has more than doubled since 2020 and increased 30% since 2019, according to data from the Los Angeles Police Department analyzed by ABC7.

And although the Red Line, which runs between downtown and North Hollywood, accounts for only about 10% of Metro's ridership, it accounts for about a third of the public transportation system's violent crime reported by LAPD.

Click here to open in a new window.

On the Red Line in 2022, there was an average of about one violent crime per day. There were more than 70,000 Red Line riders on average per day in 2022.

So ABC7's Marc Brown decided to take look for himself -- with no camera crew, only a smartphone -- to see what's it's like to ride the Red Line these days.

Arriving outside Metro's North Hollywood station on a Thursday morning, Brown saw two uniformed LAPD officers, part of the department's beefed-up presence around the Metro system.

The increase in security comes after a surge in violence on the Red Line: two stabbings and two murders on or near Red Line stations. The agency's head of security says some of those peace officers -- from the LAPD, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Long Beach Police Department, do ride on the trains.

"If you're in one car and they're in a different car, you might not see them," Gina Osborne, Metro's chief safety officer, said in an interview. "But we do have officers riding on the trains."

The Red Line, or B Line, as it's now called, stretches 16.4 miles between North Hollywood and Union Station, with a total of 14 stops.

Thirty minutes into Brown's ride, a woman boarded the train and began acting erratically -- talking gibberish, cursing and threatening other passengers.

Suspect bites off portion of LAPD sergeant's finger at East Hollywood Metro station

A Los Angeles sergeant lost a portion of his finger when a suspect bit his hand during an attack on the Metro Red Line in East Hollywood.

Passengers were clearly unsettled. But unlike other subway systems, the Red Line isn't built to allow passengers to move from car to car.

After two passengers, a man and a woman, exited the train at station, Brown asked them if they had feared for their safety.

"No, it was just uncomfortable for people to act that way," the man replied."

Asked what they thought might have helped in the situation, the man said: "I don't think anything."

Brown saw law enforcement officers on three platforms, along with armed private security guards.

Part of what Metro calls its "multi-layered approach" to security are its Transit Ambassadors unarmed representatives trained to help passengers find their way around, with no security training or equipment.

Over the last 12 months, violent crime reported by the Los Angeles Police Department on Metro properties increased 14% to 16% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

If something happens, the Transit Ambassadors do not have walkie-talkies to summon law enforcement. They can call 911 on their cellphones or use a Metro app to call for help just like any other passenger.

There was no security present on the Red Line car during the woman's outburst, nor was there any security there when a man who appeared to be under the influence pulled out a Sharpie and started tagging a seat. He later pulled out a pipe.

Brown saw and smelled smoke that was unidentifiable, neither tobacco nor marijuana. A man was asleep on the seat where it came from.

Several people were sleeping inside the Red Line car at 1 p.m. During Brown's 2-hour ride, he was never in outright fear for his safety, but he was never fully comfortable either.

"Would you take your family on a ride on the red line?" Brown asked Osborne.

"I would, and I'm on the station," she said. "I'm on the system frequently."

"I'm not saying we don't have challenges," Osborne added. "But we are working on the issues that we have, and we are working to make our system safer."

Grace Manthey contributed to this report.