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ATTITUDES / AURORA MACKEY

Security, Comfort Get Left Behind in the Rush to Promote Public Transit

March 04, 1993|AURORA MACKEY | Aurora Mackey is a Times staff writer

I knew they dusted for fingerprints in homicides and at other big-time crime scenes, but really, for torn-out radios, too?

"Well, you never know," the Simi Valley police officer said as he jotted down information at my living room table. "It doesn't happen often, but sometimes you get lucky."

The torn-out radio in question belonged to my Significant Other, who had parked his car early that morning at Simi Valley's Metrolink station. When he came back 12 hours later--on a train loaded with commuters--he discovered a pile of shattered glass on the back seat and wires ripped out where his dashboard used to be.

"I had it happen to me once, too," the officer said. "But they were actually very nice about it. They snipped the wires and then they left all the screws in a neat little pile for me."

Gee, kinda gets you right here, doesn't it?

Ours wasn't the first such report the officer had taken. There had been several similar cases at the Metrolink station, he told us.

"We've been asked to step up our patrol out there, but we can't be watching every second," he said. "Sometimes you see someone suspicious-looking who's sitting in his car, but you can't just go up to him without a reason.

"A lot of those guys probably wait until we drive out of the lot before they go to work."

My mate paced the living room.

"You know, I'm against the death penalty," he said to no one in particular. "Except for the person who did this to my car."

I changed the subject. Where was the security guard who walked around the parking lot?

The officer just looked at us.

"We're it," he said.

*

It's earlier than I'm used to getting up.

On top of that, it is a day better suited to sipping cappuccino under the comforter and reading Jane Austen: Without even stepping from my bed, I already know the rain is sheeting down horizontally, propelled by a biting wind.

But a promise is a promise. I shuttle my mate to the station, where the train is due any second.

Once there, I expect him to grab his briefcase and jump out. Instead, he suggests we sit in the car for a minute.

Now this is really sweet, I think. He's going to tell me what a good sport I was. How he really appreciates how I stopped by the doughnut shop en route for him.

"I don't want to stand out there any longer than I have to," he says instead, jerking his head slightly and sipping his coffee.

Huddled on the platform in the pelting rain is a group of commuters with expressions even a car thief would find pitiful. The "shelter" above the ticket machine appears to be the reason: It looks like one of those paper umbrellas they put in tropical drinks that has been extended 10 feet high.

There's no protection. No side walls to keep the rain off. The group is soaking wet.

Have a nice day.

*

I might not have given the incidents more thought if it hadn't been for an item you might have also read.

Last week, the Transportation Committee of the Los Angeles City Council approved the last piece of funding necessary to begin construction of two on-site Metrolink child-care facilities, one at the Chatsworth station and the other in San Fernando.

A city transit official said that if the $1.5-million investment is successful, the centers might be expanded to other areas.

"We want people to use public transportation," said Councilman Hal Bernson.

Now, a one-stop drop-off place for kids sounds like a potential winner. But at the risk of sounding like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel, do you think we could first get down to basics?

If there's funding available for this kind of an effort, it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask that commuters who already use the train should get a bit of consideration, too.

And that shouldn't be any less true, despite a Metrolink spokesman's explanation that each city is responsible for building the station and providing security. Surely there can be little doubt that, no matter who's responsible, rampant vandalism would ultimately reflect badly on Metrolink.

Personally, if the train line were extended to Ventura, I'd definitely give it a try. But I wouldn't keep using it if I worried about my car being burgled or if it meant getting drenched to the bone before work.

That said, I now have more important things to think about.

Like what would happen if my mate were told that the only fingerprints they could identify were covered in chocolate and belonged to my two sons.

I really did mean to tell him about that.

He is surely not going to be amused.

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