It was a peaceful summer for passengers on BART

Riders on BART saw peaceful times during July, August and September as crime rates and vandalism dropped.

The Bay Area transit agency met all but two of its security standards — police presence and police response time during an emergency — in a review of its services for the first quarter of fiscal year 2007-08.

The BART police agency has 200 sworn officers and 15 openings, spokesman Linton Johnson said.

“We’re hurting in terms of trying to hire more police officers,” Johnson said, noting stricter requirements, such as having a college degree, that keep people from becoming officers.

BART police barely missed their goal of four minutes to respond to an emergency, averaging 4.2 minutes per incident.

But the known presence of BART police could likely drop this weekend as officers go undercover on trains to prevent criminals from wreaking havoc on crowded holiday trains. BART officials expect a spike in ridership during the holiday season as people take the train in to shop at the well-known big-name stores in downtown San Francisco.

The increase could also draw the less-attractive, criminal elements to prey on unsuspecting shoppers.

“Holiday crime knows no boundaries,” BART Board President Lynette Sweet said.

Despite worries about this weekend, rates of vandalism and major crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault are down during the first quarter, according to the review.

Johnson said vandalism in stations and on the trains is a “terrible, terrible problem” that has been “virtually eliminated” by security cameras.

But the biggest change has been in the crime rate on BART trains, which dropped by more than 15 percent. Last spring, there were 2.04 crimes per million riders, but during the first quarter of this fiscal year, the figure dropped to 1.73.

During the first quarter of fiscal year 2006-07, the crime rate was 1.95 per million riders, an 11.4 percent increase over this year’s first quarter tally, according to BART.

dsmith@examiner.com  

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