Monday, March 11, 2013

The day I got punched in the face -- Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

I waited a good 10 minutes for Deputy Hernandez to come back so I could tell her what happened. I was eager to get home, so I was tempted just to leave and forget it. But I also felt that I owed it to my fellow Metro passengers to have this sort of incident documented, and to do what I could to hold this man responsible for his actions.

I'm glad the deputies were there and able to arrest this man, but in other ways they seemed to take only a lukewarm interest in the assault. They made no attempt to find witnesses and get their statements (even though two witnesses had already found me). When I told Deputy Hernandez that, yes, I would like to press charges, she implied it would be a big hassle and perhaps not worth the bother.

She said that in this situation, since police hadn't witnessed the punch, it would be classified as a misdemeanor and I would essentially be making a citizen's arrest, then going to court to testify against my attacker. There was also a fair chance that this man would never show up in court (why would he?).

I went up to street level with the deputy, where her car was parked, and she spent a good five minutes looking in the trunk of the car trying find the right form to fill out.  I continued to stand and wait as she wrote information on the incident down. I'd been standing with her for 20 minutes before she gave me a form to write down my description of events. Even when all the paperwork was done, I still had to wait five more minutes for a "report number."  Clearly, not the most efficient process. All in all, I spend about 40 minutes, mostly standing around doing nothing, waiting for the police to do their work.

Initially, Deputy Hernandez told me that since this guy was clearly mentally unstable that they would try and find some reason to keep him in custody longer, perhaps by requesting a mental evaluation  But just a few hours later when she called me she had forgotten to put my birthdate on the report she said they were about to release him.

She suggested that he might "plea out" and there won't be a trial. About the best result I think I can expect out of the situation is putting the incident on his record, so perhaps someday it and other crimes will add up to some real jail time.

There are some bigger issues in this whole incident, one of which is the question of why there are so many mentally ill people wandering Los Angeles' streets. That's a topic that's too big for me to tackle here.

This episode also raises anew questions about Metro's peculiar "honor system." On Metro trains, you're supposed buy a ticket, but there's nothing to force you to do so. Anyone can walk into a station and onto a train without a ticket.

The catch is that if fare inspectors find you without a ticket you can be cited and fined as much as $180. That's a pretty substantial penalty, but there are some big problems with this system. First, they rarely check for tickets. I've gone for months of daily commuting without any ticket inspection.

Second, there's little penalty if you ignore your ticket. The Los Angeles Times said in 2007 that "most of the 60,000 passengers cited each year never pay up or go to court to fight their citations, resulting in the low collection rate, according to court statistics." True, the court may issue an arrest warrant for those who don't pay, but that's hardly a deterrent for transients.

In the end, Metro train lines end up as the transportation of choice for the kind of people who don't care if they're wanted by the law. And that makes Metro dangerous for all of us.


(Please support this blog by clicking on an ad.)

No comments:

Post a Comment