Villanueva doesn't expect the situation to get better soon, thanks to the Metro Ambassador Pilot Program launched in March by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA). The program seeks to replace armed law enforcement with unarmed "ambassadors."
According to Villanueva, this will only cause more crimes and anxiety among passengers.
The pilot program initially deployed almost 300 unarmed ambassadors on trains and buses, although an additional 48 armed ambassadors had been added in response to criticisms and the rise in assaults against riders and drivers.
Villanueva said the increase in crime aboard the Metro trains has made people more afraid of riding the transit system – a trend backed up by official data. The former sheriff continued: "Women, in particular, are definitely afraid of going on the train."
Metro officials have acknowledged their challenges in addressing these issues. According to Metro spokesperson Patrick Chandler, the agency has implemented various measures, such as playing classical music in certain stations to discourage illicit activities and partnering with health services and housing departments to support the homeless.
Chandler said the Metro cannot isolate itself from the broader societal issues of drug use and crime. He added that the problems the Metro system faces reflect the challenges present in the community at large.
But Villanueva doesn't buy that excuse. The former sheriff called on the members of LACMTA board to "resign en masse, bow their heads in shame and ask for forgiveness from the residents of LA County."
Villanueva, who lost the post to incumbent LA County Sheriff Robert Luna during the November 2022 elections, recounted what he saw after taking the system's Gold and Red lines in April.
"Passengers were just smoking weed out in the open on the train in front of little kids with their parents all nervous right there," he told Epoch Times. The former sheriff also observed other passengers engaged in disruptive behavior, such as talking loudly to themselves or lighting up joints. These things, he said, create an unpleasant environment for commuters, including families with young children.
Villanueva also noted the presence of disoriented homeless individuals at the stations and bottles of alcohol on the railroad. Drug paraphernalia such as empty syringes were also distressingly common. He remarked: "Look at all the debris from intravenous drug use. That is typical." (Related: Los Angeles faces an imminent bubonic plague outbreak due to rampant homelessness.)
"Sadly, it's what we expected," Villanueva continued. "It's a degradation of the system. It's accelerating and getting bigger because it's become a haven for transients, for people that want to use it as a shooting gallery."
Commuters have abandoned large swaths of the Metro train system as cases of suspected drug overdoses, robbery, rape and aggravated assault increased by 24 percent last year compared to the previous years.
Last April, there have been four stabbings on the Metro trains, leading to one fatality. Additionally, LACMTA reported 21 deaths on buses and trains this year, mostly suspected of drug overdoses. These incidents have left passengers fearful and have contributed to a decline in ridership, with a 41 percent decrease since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Villanueva ultimately called for increased police presence on the Metro system.
Learn more about the chaotic situation in LA and other California cities at Collapsifornia.com.
Watch former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson explaining why LA is now more dangerous than El Salvador.