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LAPD officers 'overwhelmed' by homeless problem on Metro

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File: Red Line at 7th Street/Metro Center.
Todd Johnson/KPCC
File: Red Line at 7th Street/Metro Center.

Months into starting patrols on the Metro system, the head of LAPD's transit officers says dealing with the homeless is a "significant challenge."

Months into taking the job, the LAPD officers who patrol Metro's buses and trains say dealing with the homeless is a "significant challenge."

Speaking earlier this week to the LA Police Commission, Deputy Chief Robert Green, head of the LAPD's Transit Services Bureau, said the problem is "a continuous struggle."

The LA Sheriff's Department used to be the sole agency that provided security on Metro.

But when officials and riders complained that they didn't see enough patrols, Metro split that responsibility between county sheriffs and the LA and Long Beach police departments starting last July.

"There are times when [homeless] people are acting out on public transportation," Officer Green tells Take Two. "They're making other riders uncomfortable. They may be yelling or screaming. Many are addicted."

The LAPD's current protocol is to engage an individual who's violating the Metro code of conduct.

Then the officers are instructed to deescalate the situation, then convince that person to disembark a train or bus. Finally, officers will point them towards homelessness resources.

"But many times, based on addiction or mental health issues, ultimately officers have to remove the individuals," says Green.  

He adds that his officers are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of homeless people they must help.

"Our goal is to create a safe riding experience for everybody," he says, "so that folks will want to ride the system."

Listen to more of what officers are encountering. Use the audio player above to hear the whole interview.

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