S.F.: Muni officials double down on intolerance for crimes on public transit

Muni officials have one message to people thinking about committing a crime on San Francisco’s public transit system — “you will be caught.”

On April 25, city transportation officials hosted a Muni safety roundtable after a man was arrested and charged for allegedly throwing eggs and yelling racial slurs while riding a Muni bus.

“We’re here today to make it clear that all crimes on Muni are unacceptable,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director of transportation.

SFMTA chief security officer Kimberly Burrus said the agency is in a “season of accountability” — when “unscrupulous” cases of harassment and violence occur on Muni, that is the time when the agency will double down on its intolerance for crime.

Burrus said Muni works closely with police to share video surveillance footage and information immediately after a crime has occurred on public transit. Every Muni bus is equipped with at least 11 security cameras, and each subway station has 60 to 100 cameras, she said.

“We’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes to enhance our systems so that we can respond a little more effective and efficient,” she said.

Last week, prosecutors charged 44-year-old Joseph Benjamin for hate crimes and battery after he allegedly attacked passengers and a bus driver in three separate incidents.

On Feb. 16, Benjamin allegedly uttered racial slurs to an Asian woman while on a 38-Geary Muni bus. A bystander intervened, and the suspect threw an egg at him before running off the bus and throwing another egg at the vehicle, according to police.

During the investigation, police said they linked Benjamin to two other incidents on Muni buses — one on Dec. 25, 2022, when the suspect allegedly threw food and derogatorily comments toward a woman, and another on Feb. 13, where he allegedly assaulted a bus driver and spit on two victims while using threatening language.

Benjamin was arrested by Tenderloin station police on April 14 in the 500 block of Jones Street. He has since been released from custody since his arraignment on April 26, and faces up to seven years in prison if found guilty of all charges.

“I just want to thank the SFMTA for the partnership and helping our investigators,” said San Francisco Police Cmdr. Julian Ng.

“If a crime does happen on Muni, our officers know to ask for evidence, and a lot of times it’s video,” Ng added. “It’s timely, and we get it right away. The partnership is strong, and that’s why we solve a lot of cases.”

Riders who experience harassment or other inappropriate behavior on Muni are encouraged to report it, either through Muni’s online feedback form, by calling 311, or by notifying the operator on board.

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