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Criminals in NoHo Go Metro, Save Gas, Make a Quick Getaway

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Not all Angelenos appreciate our Metro system, but police say there is one demographic that seems to be taking the "Go Metro" advertising campaign to heart: criminals making a getaway.Authorities say that criminals going Metro seem to be a particular problem in the artsy hood around the North Hollywood Red Line station. They told The Daily News that they've seen an uptick in crime around the station recently and they've upped patrols in the area. They believe that criminals are robbing people, disappearing into the underground station and hopping the next train to return from whence they came — although they didn't offer any hard numbers on the increase or give a timeline to say when exactly they noticed the uptick. The criminals they have caught exhibiting this pattern are commuting to the Valley to do their business.

Over the past year authorities say they have started really cracking down on Metro freeloaders as a way to tackle this problem. The sheriff's department told the paper that they have cited 19,043 people on the Red Line for fare evasion from January to October, and they have made 259 felony arrests on the line in the same period.

Cracking down on attention to smaller crimes as a way to find is an old policing technique (known as the broken windows theory). But at least one officer got the theory backwards and jumped to the incorrect assumption that people who aren't paying for tickets have a much worse criminal history.

"Someone's who's not going to pay for the Red Line, that's probably not the worst thing that they've done," Officer Francois Reese told the Daily News.

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The theory is supposed to go the other way: some criminals who commit serious crimes, might flout the smaller rules, too, and skip out on the $1.50 for the fare. Cracking down on a small crime like freeloaders is supposed to help police catch bigger criminals. But for every big criminal, there are probably lots of little guys who have committed the Metro equivalent of driving 10 mph over the speed limit. The reporter tagging along with the sheriff's department spoke with someone who seems to fit into the latter category.

"I probably should have paid it, because you have to pay attention and obey the laws," said Jesse James Lohmeier, who was cited after he got off in North Hollywood. "But I'm not too upset."

In any case, beware of the sheriff's deputies citing riders. Pay the fare if you're riding from North Hollywood — or anywhere — lest you be treated not as a freeloader but as someone who just robbed one of the patrons at the hip new gallery up the street.