Phoenix light rail riders speak out as data shows dozens of assault incidents on system

New numbers from Valley Metro officials show there were dozens of assaults on Phoenix area's light rail system so far in 2023.

While officials with the transit agency say most assaults were between people who knew one another, some might still find the statistics alarming.

Here's what to know about incidents on the light rail.

What do the numbers show?

According to Valley Metro officials, 25 guards on the light rail were assaulted so far in 2023, and 81 passengers were assaulted.

One of the incidents happened on the night of March 25. Video of the incident was released in April, and it shows a man brandishing a knife, swinging it at another man multiple times, and stabbing him.

That incident happened as the train was approaching a stop on 24th Street and Jefferson.

What are light rail riders saying about safety onboard?

We spoke with light rail riders on Sept. 18, and some riders say they do notice a problem with security onboard.

One rider, identified only as ‘Luis,’ said he is OK with the security situation onboard.

"I think I feel OK," said Luis. "I mean, it's not the safest place, obviously. You see some things, like people yelling at each other, getting into each other's faces, but overall, I personally feel OK."

That is not necessarily the case for other riders, like two nursing students who, for two times a week, travel to classes at Arizona State University's campus in Downtown Phoenix. The two said sometimes, they would prefer riding in an Uber, but that light rail is cheaper, and gets them to where they need to go to.

The two also said they have pepper sprays that are easily accessible, and they say they want to see more security officers on trains.

Some riders, like Mickey Paulos, do not seem to be concerned with crime on the light rail.

"I absolutely love it. If a situation arises where I'm uncomfortable, just walk somewhere else on the train and take care of it."

What are Valley Metro officials saying about the data?

Officials with Valley Metro have issued a statement, which reads:

"Valley Metro is committed to delivering safe, high-quality transit experiences to our more than 30,000 daily riders on our light rail system. In fact, the majority of these transit riders feel safe and secure while riding Valley Metro.

Like so many public spaces, transit is and always will be a reflection of the communities we serve. Currently, our nation and our nearby communities are experiencing a mental health and substance abuse crisis, which plays into public behavior in public spaces.

While our rail security program is evolving to attempt to keep pace with these dramatic changes, we’re seeking support from local social service agency partners and incorporating nationwide best practices to improve safety.

Our rail security program is a partnership between Valley Metro’s private security contractor, who has civil-only fare and code of conduct enforcement, and our police departments in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa who provide important criminal enforcement."

Valley Metro officials also say they are working with police to improve rail security.