In the hopes of fighting sexual harassment on its trains and buses, Metro has teamed with the nonprofit Peace over Violence to create a new public information campaign.
The "It's Off Limits" campaign will place ads on buses, trains and video monitors to urge riders to report any harassment they see to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Passengers who see or experience sexual harassment can call the sheriff's hotline at 888-950-7233 or report through the free LA Metro Transit Watch safety app.
The organizers officially announced the project Thursday morning at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.
“Metro customers deserve to travel in a safe environment free from harassment,” said LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, chair of the Metro Board of Directors, in a statement. “Metro wants riders to know that unwanted sexual behavior will not be tolerated on its buses and trains, and help and support is available to victims of harassment.”
Survey results released by the transit agency in February found 22 percent of the 22,604 riders surveyed were subject to some form of sexual harassment in the past six months, including touching, exposure or inappropriate comments. People boarded Metro buses and trains more than 450 million tiin 2014.
Despite the high number of people who said they experienced sexual harassment in the survey, there were only 99 LASD reports last year and 20 resultant arrests, according to the report. About two-thirds of the reports involved touching and another third involved indecent exposure.
“That rate of reporting is woefully low and indicates that transit customers do not have faith that such behavior can be addressed,” said Metro Board member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl in a statement.
"Annoying her, talking to her, whispering in her ear," said Claudia Nicolosi, a passenger who told NBC4 her daughter has encountered all those forms of harassment. "An elderly gentleman licked her ear."
Nicolosi said she would also like bus and train operators to get more training to handle those situations. Metro officials said they intend to train them as well as maintenance and custodial workers.
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"I don't think we feel like it's going to do anything," Nicolosi said. "I mean, it's a passing person on a bus. But it is a problem."
The majority of incidents were of men harassing women but 18 percent of men reported being harassed, as did children, according to Metro officials.
"The fact that we have this data gives a lot of reliability and credibility to the anecdotes [that] so many people have experienced the unwanted gestures or comments or the exposing," Peace Over Violence Executive Director Patti Giggans said.
April is National Sexual Harassment Awareness Month.