Undercover cops enter the 14-Mission bus.

A 100 uniformed and undercover police officers were unleashed onto bus lines across the city around 2 p.m. Wednesday in the biggest police sting ever performed on Muni. The cops handed citations to fare evaders and were on the lookout for crime.

Crime is down in the city, but up on Muni, Capt. Lazar said during the press briefing at the Tenderloin Police Station right before Operation Safe Muni exploded onto the streets.

Lazar works at Ingleside Station, where Lieut. Cherniss carried out a smaller test version of Operation Safe Muni on Sept. 22. Responding to the Sept. 1 stabbing of an 11-year-old boy riding the 49-Van Ness/Mission, the test version targeted the 9X-San Bruno, the 14-Mission, and the 49.

Just over a month later, Christopher Borgzinner, an actor in the film La Mission, was badly beaten by gang members on the 9 San Bruno bus.

But Wednesday’s sting was citywide and involved officers from many different stations hoping to catch assailants, thieves, taggers, and fare evaders. If the operation is successful, it will not be the last of its kind, according to officials.

“My message is that the best thing you can do is have officers visibly riding the system,” said Supervisor Bevan Dufty outside the station.

“Our mission today is to address crime on Muni,” said Lazar, asking sergeants to pick high crime and commute areas wisely. Reports of violent crime on Muni rose from 43 in 2008 to 49 in 2009. In that same period, fare evasions rose from 26,277 to 39,277, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Lazar reminded officers not to take lunch breaks during peak hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. He also asked that officers not disrupt the bus schedule, but have passengers exit the bus while the citations are written.

Although officers are normally required to ride two buses per shift, the sting process was new to some. In small teams — about four to seven cops to a double bus — they were accompanied by a Muni fare collector who trained them how to identify counterfeit passes, old transfers and student IDs, and how to properly fill out citations.

Muni fare inspector Michael Butler told the officers at 16th and Mission to wait until the bus doors were closed to make the proof of payment announcement. That way, he said, there’s a captive audience that can’t escape the bus to avoid the penalty.

In a period of three hours on a normal day, the 14-Mission can generate as many as 200 citations for fare evasion, Butler explained.

During Wednesday’s sting, it took only a few minutes for a 25-year-old man with no ID, two homeless men, a man too young to have a senior pass, three people with outdated transfers, and a handful of others to be handed $75 citations.

One woman told police she bought her 75 cent disabled ticket on a bus in front of SF General Hospital but then lost the transfer. Instead, she had an old transfer from a morning bus ride in her purse.

Raymond Folsom, 55, was issued a citation for using a Muni pass for seniors. He said he bought the pass after employees of the Department of Human Services told him he qualified.

“I went and bought it and wasted my dime,” he said. “I’m homeless — what am I going to do?”

Two young men got citations at 2:36 p.m., four minutes after their transfers had expired.

A 26-year-old Iraq war veteran, who said his parents are both Muni drivers, had boarded on 11th and Mission streets, and was cited at 16th and Mission for not having a ticket.

“The city needs the money, so it’s taking it from the citizens,” he said, adding that he’s unemployed and didn’t feel like paying.

Another man, 22, was on his way to his job at Conscious Youth Media Crew, an organization that works with inner city youth, when he got a citation.

“I didn’t expect this,” he said, and began to walk to work.

“Two dollars is ridiculous,” said a woman with white hair as she handed her ID to an undercover officer. “With the way the economy is going, it should have went down in price.”

“This is a total waste of money on these police,” she said, walking away.

Around 5:30 p.m., undercover officers waiting to catch the next bus at 16th and Mission said they hadn’t encountered any graffiti writing, gang activity, or violence aimed at unsuspecting passengers during the sting. They continued to issue citations.

Police officers were expected back at the Tenderloin Police Station at 8:30 pm to debrief on the day’s work. The statistics will tell whether it’s been a worthwhile and replicable endeavor to stop crime on Muni, and reduce the $19 million annual loss from fare evasion.

Citations need to be paid within 21 days or protested in court.

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  1. S. (commenter #23): Yes, “arresting a 13 year old girl because she didn’t have a transfer” is going to far.

    Except that it never happened.

    Idiot. What the hell are you talking about?!

  2. Another example of media bias. No comments from people sick of paying for leeches. Just those expecting a free-ride or indignant they got caught stealing.

  3. Its about time. There has been a *culture* of sneak in by the backdoor fare evasion on MUNI that goes back for decades.

    My mother and I visited SF in 1975, rode MUNI and we were shocked to see people getting in through the back doors of the bus and not paying.

    Its now 33 years later, and people are still fare evading, but have a sense of entitlement because the city did not have the guts to do anything to intervene–until now.

    Now..if only we could get the city to take action and do a massive and meaningful crackdown on adult cyclists who illegally ride on sidewalk pavement and double the amount for those cyclists who both ride on sidewalks while plugged into iPods or who are glued to their cell phones, that would greatly add to the quality fo life in this town.

  4. i think the reporter was right to focus on the people who got stung. that’s the story, not their opinions, or the opinions of the bystanders or net surfers.

  5. I can understand them wanting to “clear up crime” but I think that arresting a 13 year old girl because she didn’t have a transfer is going a bit overboard!!!

  6. I like the idea of police on buses; but yesterday, around 4:30 pm, on the 7 Haight at Powell Street Station, the police officers did not board the bus, one of them just used the back door to scan his and 4 of his fellow officer’s trankslink cards and then walk away. I guess they have to “prove” to their bosses that they are riding MUNI – they ARE NOT

  7. “Two young men got citations at 2:36 p.m., four minutes after their transfers had expired.”
    I’d like to see a transfer that indicates that it expires at “2:32”.
    and what are you to do if you’re on an hour long bus ride and your transfer expires? Do you go up to the driver and purchase another?

    -A little confused

  8. Everyone insist that when you pay your fare you get a fresh transfer that is good for the FULL allotted time. Too often, surly MUNI drivers hand farepayers an old transfer, or one that is torn off at such a steep angle that it only provides a few minutes time. Passengers who complain are often given the brush off by the driver. Stop enforcing 4 min after transfer expiration until drivers give fair transfers. Change rules so that transfers are good when you board the bus, not for an unpredictably long ride due to traffic & many stops.

  9. Well, if everyone paid their fare AND that fare reflected the true cost of providing that service, then MUNI will have all the money it needs to further coddle its union. Good for this sting. This needs to be a permanent policy.

    And don’t even think of oppressing taxpaying motorists any further. Go too far, and you’ll lose what you have.

  10. Sorry cheaters. You may always have the feelings of the world owes me. Sorry I’m not your parent. If all the cheaters think for a second…if I came into your residence & felt entitled to free room & board. Stole from you on top of it, how would you feel?

  11. “This is a total waste of money. The cost of this stupid operation outweighs the proceeds taken in.”

    I think perhaps the point is to get people to start paying MUNI every time they ride, not just for a day or two.

  12. It took the 38 Geary bus I was riding 50 minutes to go from Park Presidio to downtown during the sting operation. Whatever they say, the sting DID cause major disruption to the schedule. For me, the irony was that the day before I found myself cursing under my breath at the complete lack of police presence on buses as a tagger defaced with utter impunity the Muni bus I was riding.

  13. ““The city needs the money, so it’s taking it from the citizens,” he said, adding that he’s unemployed and didn’t feel like paying.”

    Of course it is, the city has provided you a bus to ride and you need to pay for it. There are few places in the city you can’t walk to in an hour or so, get going loser.

  14. I’m sorry, but if people don’t like Muni prices, get some walking shoes and hit the sidewalks. We’ve got enough budget problems without people riding without paying.

  15. While it seems annoying to some, I say it’s about time! I’ve been on that Chinatown bus filled with leachers who go in the back door. Not right.

    I also think this kind of crackdown could deter at least some of the criminal element. Who wants to pay money to go commit crimes! They’ll stick to the sidewalks as long as they remain free.

  16. =====

    I think MUNI should be FREE and the car drivers will pay for it.

    More cars in the city equals more money for MUNI.

  17. Kudos to Muni and SFPD!! People have been sneaking on Muni for far too long and it is about time they did something. It is not about the two dollars, but setting an example that rules are in place for a reason. If a kid can break that law, then he will assume he can break the next one too.

    Everyone is welcome here, but everyone also needs to pay their own way.

  18. whoever got that ticket 4 minutes after their transfer expired, contest it at court. that is just ridiculous and they are doing a little too much.

  19. finally! gawd, the sense of entitlement in this town is ridiculous. your transfer must be valid for the ENTIRE trip. if your transfer expires while you’re on the bus, go buy another one from the driver. i hope they nail a bunch more people for this. if $2 seems too much, then walk. and by the way, if everyone paid their fare, it wouldn’t have to be $2.

  20. The article only contains comments from riders with excuses griping about having to obey the same laws as everyone else. Surely there is a silent majority of fare-paying riders who would say, “It’s about time!” It’s too bad they’re not represented in the article.

  21. Why only comments from people with excuses griping about having to obey the same laws as everyone else? Where’s all the fare-paying riders saying, “It’s about time!”

  22. great slam on the cops, de brito. start the article reading how the police are focusing on the crimes people feel most, then follow it up with quotes about how ridiculous the riders think the tickets are. how about a quote from a rider who pays his ticket every time even when he/she knows they could get away evading? don’t be so biased.

  23. I am all for cracking down on fare evaders, but hold it:

    “Two young men got citations at 2:36 p.m., four minutes after their transfers had expired.”

    Aren’t the fare police being a little too agressive there? If the transfers expired AFTER they boarded the bus, then these tickets should be contested. The muni code requires that your transfer be valid when you board the bus, not during the whole trip.