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Before teens swarmed train, crime on BART was already on the rise

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Crime on BART was on the rise before a swarm of 50 or so teens robbed passengers on a train last week — and BART police were already on the case.

That’s according to BART’s acting police chief, Jeff Jennings, who outlined BART police’s struggles with crime to the agency’s Board of Directors during their meeting last Thursday.

“Since mid-March we were focused specifically in the areas of Fruitvale, Coliseum and Bay Fair” stations, he told the board.

As for the incident with the teenagers, “We’re very sorry that happened on our train and we weren’t in a position to prevent that from happening.”

On April 22, about 50 to 60 teens rushed a BART train in Oakland and robbed seven people, drawing widespread scrutiny of the agency. But the incident was one moment in a growing trend, the chief said.

Jennings said since March 11, BART police arrested 19 people ages 12 to 21, “usually working in concentrated groups,” though he added this particular group apparently came from a nearby party.

“It was broken up by gunfire,” he said, “and they converged on the BART station.”

Crime on BART this past quarter is up 22 percent, mainly from robberies of electronic devices like cell phones and assaults during those robberies. Crime is up in all categories except auto thefts and bike thefts, according to BART’s quarterly report, which are down.

Crime dropped at BART for three years in a row, however, according to BART spokesperson Alicia Trost, and was down three percent last year and another five percent the year before.

Jennings said a regional task force will convene to tackle youth crime.

As BART directors commented on the incident, directors seemed to be divided on how to handle the issue.

Recently elected director Lateefah Simon, who represents Richmond, Oakland and a portion of San Francisco, said, “What we aren’t going to do is vilify our youth of color in our great city of Oakland. We want to, and need to, invest in deep systemic solutions.”

She added the messages she received following the incident were “horrifying and racist.”

Director Robert Raburn, who represents Oakland, said, “I don’t believe anyone’s above the law, including juveniles. We cannot allow an event like this to occur with impunity.”

BART police have arrested one suspect so far, and its investigation into the incident is still ongoing. “We have identified multiple suspects,” the agency said in a recent statement.

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