RTA Audit Shows Major Decrease In Serious Crimes on Buses and Trains Since 2016

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SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
The results of an internal safety audit conducted by RTA show a major decrease in serious crimes on the system since 2016, at least for the first half of the year. Compared to January - June, 2016, robberies in 2018 fell by 80 percent and thefts decreased by 50 percent.

Transit Police Chief John Joyce credited RTA's recent investments in safety for the reduction in criminal activity.



“We now have more officers, and more visibility. That’s a clear deterrent to would-be criminals," he said in a statement. "We have working video cameras in every bus and train and on every platform, and we fully utilize that technology. If you commit a crime, we’re going to see you and we’re going to arrest you. That’s a strong deterrent."

But the most striking number from the safety audit was not among the "serious crimes" tabulated. It was the fare evasion citations, under the the "quality of life" crimes.



In the first half of 2018, there were only 170 citations for "misconduct on public trains," (which is code for fare evasion.) Last year, over the same stretch, there were 3,446 such citations.  That's a 95 percent decrease and is due almost entirely to the single-door boarding method now in use on the HealthLine, where the vast majority of fare evasion citations occurred.

CEO and GM Joe Calabrese said at an RTA committee meeting Tuesday that while ridership numbers are way down on the HealthLine — there have been excessive delays caused by the single-door boarding format and many riders have given up the route entirely out of frustration — revenue is actually up because the people who ride the HealthLine are paying their fares.

The old "proof of payment" system, in which officers enforced fare payment on the Red Line and Health Line, was deemed to be a violation of passengers' Fourth Amendment rights — protections against unreasonable searches and seizures — by a local judge last year.

In its "Fair Fares" report, Clevelanders for Public Transit proposed restoring all-door boarding on the HealthLine, assigning fare enforcement to a team of civilian "Transit Ambassadors," and making fare evasion a civil, rather than criminal, offense.

Some transit officers told Scene late last summer that they believed the aggressive fare enforcement was an inequitable money-grab by the agency, and admitted that there had been unofficial quotas in place that they said rose in 2017.

The data agrees with the officers' anecdotal evidence: There were 1,719 fare evasion citations issued in 2016, a number that more than doubled in 2017 before dropping off a cliff this year.

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