Too many Metro travelers have experienced some form of sexual harassment over the last six months, including unwanted touching, indecent exposure and/or inappropriate comments. And so, to bring attention to the problem, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has launched a campaign against sexual harassment in the public transit system.
“Metro’s buses, trains and stations are off limits to sexual harassment,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who will take over as chairman of the Metro Board of Directors in July. “Our passengers must be kept safe, not only from hazards on the road but those on board.”
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, Sheila Kuehl and Michael Antonovich take a stand against sexual harassment in public transit
Metro partnered with Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit sexual and domestic violence prevention center, to launch It’s Off Limits, a 30-second public service announcement for television, as well as billboards and posters on buses, trains and stations.
“Perpetrators of sexual crimes often continue their assaults if they are not caught, sometimes becoming bolder and violent,” Peace Over Violence executive director Patti Giggans warned. “Reporting the crime means the assaulter can be caught before he victimizes other women and girls.”
Metro and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department set up a hotline, 1-888-950 SAFE (1-888-950-7233), and updated the smartphone app LA Metro Transit Watch to make it easy for passengers to report incidents they experience or witness during their commute.
Sheriff’s Department’s Transit Policing Chief Ronine Anda urged passengers not to remain silent about sexual harassment.
“Metro is like a moving city with about 400,000 residents on a typical weekday,” she added. “Imagine riding in a place with 400,000 pairs of eyes looking out for their neighbors and cooperating to make conditions as safe as possible.”
The Transit Watch app has a feature allowing passengers to surreptitiously take photos of a suspect without activating their smartphone’s flash. Once a report is filed, complete with a description of the suspect and details of when and where the incident happened, deputies can review footage from video cameras mounted on most buses and trains, and use those as evidence for prosecution.
“If you see it, report it. If you’re experiencing it, report it,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl urged passengers. “With your help, we can do something about this issue.”
Also present at the event were Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Metro board members Ara Najarian and Jacquelyn DuPont-Walker, and Metro interim deputy chief executive officer Stephanie Wiggins.