Eastbound E line train arrives at Little Tokyo station. Photo by @lataino

Weeks before the opening of the Metro Regional Connector, the county transit agency rolled out its new Metro Ambassadors contingent: some 300 workers clad with bright green tops, meant to help train and bus riders.

Bus riders interviewed by Boyle Heights Beat said they welcomed the ambassadors program.

“It’s safer to have them [Metro Ambassadors] than to have cops,” said Frank Cardenas. “Unfortunately, with us brown people, cops are not the nicest. It’s nice to have authority that is not armed”.

 “I don’t feel safe with the cops there,” said Martin Alcaraz. “I have seen the cops outside pointing a gun at a homeless person, yelling, and banging on the metro door. The homeless person is scared, the cops are chasing them pulling their guns out. I’m standing behind the homeless man and I don’t feel safe. I don’t know if he’s armed but also when the cops shoot, they’re going to shoot wherever. Even as a bystander it’s dangerous and it’s the sad reality, especially as a person of color – they’re not going to care”.

However, the ambassadors program is not replacing police presence on Metro, which includes deputies and agents from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s and Los Angeles Police departments. In fact, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, who took over this summer as chair of Metro’s board of directors, has said that she is considering the creation of the agency’s own police force as a response to the high levels of crime in the transit system this year

According to Metro data, the number of homicides, rapes, assaults and robberies reported by LAPD on Metro increased 14% to 16% last year, in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.

“We have an opportunity to create a department that from its inception is here with a holistic approach, one that shows that we respond urgently to crime, but that we prevent crime and deliver the necessary outreach and services,” Bass said. 

A study commissioned by the Metro board showed that the agency could save $38 million a year in contracts to the law enforcement agencies that police the trains and buses, at a cost of $172.9 million this year.

In June the board unanimously voted to develop a blueprint for the new police agency, and the governing body is expected to vote on it early next year.

Valeria Macias was born and raised in the city of South Gate, CA. She is now a student at the University of Southern California where she is pursuing a journalism degree focusing on politics and urban...

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