It was Friday morning at 11 a.m. and I was headed to catch the 22-Fillmore on 16th and Bryant with a mission: to ride every bus route that passed through the Mission to get a sense of cops and crime on Muni.
The 22-Fillmore was half-empty. It smelled like vinegar. At the first stop an older gentleman got on wearing a black leather vest under a suit jacket, gold-rimmed glasses, a watch on each wrist, teal alligator loafers, and a name tag, “Hollywood – The Magic Chef.”
Everyone was quiet. “You got five dollars,” Hollywood asked the man next to him.
The rider shook his head and looked away.
At 16th and Church I hopped off the 22 and got on the J-Church heading toward 24th Street where I would catch the the 48-Quintara-24th Street.
I ride the J-Church frequently and earlier this year in July I had my own brush with crime — a man swiped my iPhone out of my hands and bolted from the streetcar at 16th Street . Since this occurred at the back of the train, the driver was unaware of what happened and I borrowed the phone of a woman on the street to call the cops.
While I was filling out a police report, a man walked up with my cell phone. He had chased after the thief on his bike and fought him for my phone. Patrick, my hero!
That, I discovered Friday, was a rare Muni tale.
On the 48, Matthew, a 32-year-old software designer said he had never seen police on the Muni but had almost been pick pocketed once.
At a stop, the driver stood up. “Don’t go in the back door,” he yelled to three men who were trying to board the bus. One waved a transfer and approached the back door again. The driver repeated the same warning — only louder. Defeated, the men walked to the front of the bus.
At 24th and Potrero a group of Muni drivers boarded the bus. I asked one how he felt about crime and the police on the bus.
“I don’t drive the bus,” he said.
I got even less out of the next driver who told me he would be no good for answering questions.
Stephanie Jackson, a Muni driver for nine years, offered more. She drives a different route every day but said she only sees a policeman once a week. She has seen fights break out and has had to call the cops in the past but she said fights don’t happen often.
Pat Wooley, a passenger in the front of the bus, said she had never seen police on the 48 and she rides it twice a day.
After doubling back up 24th I stopped at Mission Street to board the 14-Mission. Fifty-year-old Patricia Oliver, who is unemployed said she feels lucky that she hasn’t seen any crime on the Muni. When asked about seeing police, she said, “Only to harass you about a transfer.”
I walked down to Potrero and caught the 33-Stanyan where I joined only two other passengers and the driver. No one had much to say. The 27-Bryant was also quiet and nearly empty. I got off, walked to Folsom and took the 12-Folsom with six other passengers
After three and a half hours, six buses and one streetcar, I didn’t see a crime — or a police officer.