In the wake of three recent homicides and other violent crimes on the BART system, BART general manager Grace Crunican announced Monday that she’s asking the transit district’s board to approve a $28 million comprehensive safety and security plan.
Crunican said the series of proposals that the board will consider at its meeting Thursday are aimed at boosting the visible presence of police and other transit agency employees in the system, enhancing BART’s network of surveillance cameras and increasing public safety outreach.
In the most highly publicized homicide, Nia Wilson, 18, was fatally stabbed at the MacArthur station in Oakland at 9:36 p.m. on July 22. John Lee Cowell, a 27-year-old transient, was arrested the next evening and has been charged with murder and other offenses.
Gerald Bisbee, 51, of Pittsburg, died on July 20 after being assaulted at the Pleasant Hill station on July 18 and Don Stevens, a 47-year-old transient, died after being attacked on the platform of the Bay Fair BART station in San Leandro at about 1:20 a.m. on July 21.
In addition, two people were stabbed by an attacker at the MacArthur station on Friday night.
“BART has always been focused on public safety but it’s clear that we must do even more,” Crunican said in a statement.
“The tragic murder of Nia Wilson has deeply saddened everyone at BART as well as the communities we serve. Our riders are demanding that we do more to maintain public safety and this plan offers multiple new initiatives we can immediately begin to roll out,” she said.
Crunican said the first part of her proposed action plan was already in place Monday, when the BART Police Department temporarily
canceled days off for all its officers.”
She said that means patrol officers, community service officers, and dispatchers are now working six 10-hour days a week and patrol officers who work on their normal days off are required to ride trains throughout their shifts.
“Though this is a temporary measure, it immediately boosts the visible presence of law enforcement throughout the system,” Crunican said.
A second proposal is to train teams of BART employees to staff trains and stations while wearing high-visibility vests to provide an additional layer of visibility to BART’s safety efforts. Such teams would be deployed temporarily at times of greatest need.
Crunican said a third proposal is to accelerate “station hardening efforts” to make it harder for riders to bypass the transit system’s fare gates.
She said those efforts include raising barriers to 5 feet and adding additional fencing to include elevators in paid areas and adding a second proof of payment team for evenings.
A fourth proposal is to have platform emergency call boxes that would be installed on each platform.
Crunican said each call box would have a direct intercom with BART police dispatchers and a camera would activate whenever the intercom button is pushed.
Although stations currently have white courtesy phones to connect to station agent booths, Crunican said the emergency call boxes would offer more options and a quicker connection to dispatch.
A fifth proposal is to install video screens showing real-time station images and enhanced video surveillance signage.
Crunican said the idea would be tested at the Civic Center station in San Francisco, where video screens would be strategically placed at station entrances to remind riders the area is under surveillance.
BART would install signs that inform people in and around the station that they are under video surveillance.
Crunican also is proposing that there be a no panhandling ordinance within the BART system’s paid areas.
In addition to Crunican’s various proposals, the BART Police Department has contracted with the University of North Texas to develop a five-year strategic plan for appropriate police staffing levels for the BART system.
Crunican said she has the authority to enact some of her proposals on her own but others require board action for procurement or adoption.
-Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News