More than a dozen janitors and workers who were verbally and physically assaulted at Union Station by homeless people will get better security, transit officials said this week.
Under pressure from local officials and the union representing janitors, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency said it would tighten security at Union Station and take more precautions, including closing public restrooms while janitors cleaned them. while posting a guard outside.
“It’s a good first step,” said Alejandra Valles, chief of staff for SEIU United Service Workers West, representing the janitors who work there. “But that’s not a solution. It’s a long-term problem that requires long-term solutions.
During the pandemic, the iconic resort has become a haven for homeless men and women, many of whom have serious mental health issues.
Last week, the Los Angeles Times detailed the widespread fear among low-wage transit center workers who were often taunted and threatened while working. Last year, a janitor was beaten with a mallet in the bathroom where homeless men and women often bathe or use drugs.
In the first two months of this year, violent crime at the station soared 94% over the same period last year, and property crime doubled.
“Safety remains our No. 1 priority,” Metro spokesman David Sotero said in a statement late Thursday. He said the agency was working with law enforcement, social service providers and private security “to increase physical security at Union Station and deter criminal activity.”
Tube stations, trains and buses have become a haven for homeless people, and the agency has spent millions trying to get them to safety, but the problem persists. Union Station is ground zero. Its historic halls are some of the few public places with bathrooms open all night downtown and located about a mile from Skate Row, across from campsites on the overpasses above the freeway. 101.
Starting Monday, Metro will verify that customers have belongings at the station and kick out anyone engaging in illegal activity. The entrances to the south and north gardens where the homeless often rest will be closed. Mental health teams will be deployed to the station, in addition to reinforced patrols. And all employees will receive quarterly training on de-escalating tense and potentially dangerous situations.
LAPD Transit Services Bureau Deputy Chief Donald Graham did not specify the number of officers deployed, but said the department has doubled its resources at Union Station and is now working with private security to coordinate responses.
The union held a rally outside Union Station on Thursday where dozens of janitors chanted “justice for janitors” as they marched under the quaint entrance clock tower. Among them was Gerardo Mixcoatl, who stopped an attack on his colleague. The union is asking for better police response time, protocols in life-threatening events and other demands to improve the safety of workers cleaning the station.
Valles, who led the rally with a megaphone, said she hoped Metro would be more ambitious and not just seek to “discourage” criminal activity. On the contrary, she wants a zero-tolerance approach to criminal activity that threatens the livelihoods of the immigrant workforce she represents and the passengers who use the system.
“No one should have to go through what these essential workers are going through,” City Councilman Kevin de León, a mayoral candidate, told the heads of Metro, Metrolink and Amtrak in a letter earlier this week. He asked the agencies, which jointly manage the site, to immediately remedy the conditions by adding mental health teams, among other measures. Supervisor Janice Hahn, who is director of the Metro Board, also expressed dismay, saying she supported workers’ calls for increased safety and better protocols.
“What is happening to the janitors at Union Station is unacceptable. No one should have to go through what these essential workers are going through,” she said.