BART appoints new police chief

BART announced the appointment of a new police chief Friday along with new strategies to increase police presence on trains and reduce crime on the transit system.

Newly appointed Chief Ed Alvarez and BART General Manager Bob Powers joined Board President Lateefah Simon on an introductory train ride from the Powell Street station to Balboa Park Friday morning.

They were accompanied by a new police officer “train team,” which is part of BART’s push to cut down on crime and improve the rider experience, according to BART officials.

Alvarez has served as interim chief since Chief Carlos Rojas retired last spring. His appointment is effective immediately.

“Alvarez knows the system and has a vision for safety that includes short-term and long-term strategies to grow the department into a fully staffed, progressive agency servicing diverse communities,” Powers said in a news release.

In response to concerns riders voiced in surveys and Powers’ recent “listening tour” of the system, Alvarez will oversee the implementation of several strategies to make BART safer.

Starting Monday, a new team of 12 police officers will ride trains in pairs and walk station platforms on nights and weekends, according to BART officials. This is in addition to the unarmed “ambassadors” who will begin riding trains on Feb. 10 and whose mission is to “prevent and de-escalate problems” on trains, according to BART.

The new chief will also evaluate staffing in order to determine if it’s possible to assign some officers to remain at key stations during their shifts as opposed to working roving patrols throughout the system.

Also, in part to deter cell phone thefts — especially between Balboa Park and Powell stations — BART plans to increase officer “visibility and engagement with riders,” BART officials said.

Alvarez has worked in the BART police department for 22 years and grew up in Newark. He says his goal is to “improve engagement between BART police and the public through increased outreach and accessibility,” BART officials said.

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