Sheriffs patrol L.A.’s underworld

For many of us in Los Angeles, our subway system still is an unknown world of tunnels and connections from one line to the other.  But it’s a great way to get to Hollywood,  Union Station, and Staples Center.  One night,  I hung out with an undercover crew from the Sheriff’s Department. Their job is to spot fare evaders.   Thousands take the Metro Red Line every day, and of those, 97 percent pay the fare. But it’s the 3 percent that the sheriff’s department works to weed out.   On the night I was with them, deputies confiscated guns,  crack cocaine, and dozens of counterfeit DVDs from fare evaders.  From my story (Daily News, October 24, 2010):

On many of Los Angeles’ busiest boulevards, luxury cars carry the pretty and the famous to homes high in the Hollywood Hills.

But below the surface, the people’s limo glides through 17.4 miles of tunnels, taking its passengers to places like North Hollywood, downtown and MacArthur Park.

Matthew Rodriguez knows one truth about public transit riders and all the others who use Los Angeles’ Red Line subway: 97 percent of them are honest.

It’s Rodriguez’s job to protect them from the remaining 3 percent.

On a recent night, Rodriguez boarded a Red Line train, zipped open his backpack, pulled out a dark green jacket and slipped it on over the classic Green Bay Packers Brett Favre jersey that had helped him blend in with the crowd. Fifteen other men and women who walked onto the subway with him did the same.

“Sheriff’s Department! Please take out your tickets and TAP cards!” shouted Rodriguez, a lieutenant with the department’s Transit Services Bureau.

Since last year, Rodriguez and the bureau’s other members have worked to step up efforts to check tickets and TAP cards along the Red Line. The goal is to enforce the honor system in one of the nation’s rare big-city transit systems that does not have locking turnstiles or other barriers.


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