BART General Manager Proposes a ‘Safety and Security Action Plan’

Yet another BART Stabbing, Crunican Proposes a Series of Security Measures and a Ban on Panhandling

BART Turnstile

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BART General Manager Grace Crunican announced today that she will be seeking BART Board approval for a $28 million “comprehensive Safety and Security Action Plan.” The plan contains a series of proposals, from adding police to accelerating efforts to crack down on fare evasion. It is intended to “boost the visible presence of police and employees in the system, enhance BART’s already robust network of surveillance cameras, increase public safety outreach, and more.”

More from the BART release:

Starting today, Monday August 6, the BART Police Department is temporarily cancelling off days for all its officers. That means patrol officers, community service officers, and dispatchers are now working six ten-hour days a week. 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.

The purpose of that more visible presence is to help calm fears. As U.C. Berkeley criminologist Franklin Zimring told Streetsblog after a murder on BART in 2016, people are more easily frightened by crime on public transit, even if statistically transit is still safer than driving an automobile. “The reason public transport violence is problematic is that users cannot avoid the risk, so each event is more frightening to a larger number of persons than crime in the streets,” he told Streetsblog.

The Action Plan will go before the BART Board of Directors at its regular meeting on Thursday.

To recap what’s behind these proposals, last month teenager Nia Wilson was stabbed to death in a seemingly random attack at MacArthur station. John Cowell, the suspect in Wilson’s murder, was reportedly a violent felon who was on parole. He was cited for BART fare evasion in mid-July. In addition, Don Stevens, 47, was punched by a man at Bay Fair Station. Stevens fell, struck his head, and died. Gerald Bisbee, 51, died from an infected cut after being attacked at Pleasant Hill Station. And just this past weekend, there was another stabbing incident on BART.

Some have said the surge in violent crime on BART is a problem that goes beyond the transit agency itself–that it is about the failure of society to deal with psychiatric disorders (Cowell had a history of mental illness).

Crunican’s proposal also includes a few things that are reminiscent of “broken windows” policingthe debatable theory that cracking down on minor offenses, such as littering or riding transit without paying a fare, can deter more serious crimes. The idea is that if a building has a few broken windows, and they aren’t repaired, it encourages vandals to break more windows. Supporters accredit a drop in crime on New York’s subway system in the early 1990s to that city’s broken windows policies, which included a crackdown on graffiti, public urination, and littering. Crunican’s proposal includes a “No panhandling ordinance within paid areas of BART,” and she wants upgrades to cameras and fare gates. She also wants to add a second team of fare inspection agents to help “secure” the system.

Critics charge that the broken windows theory has led to abuses as racial minorities and people of lesser means are targetted by police while middle-class and affluent white people are given warnings or ignored for similar infractions. Indeed, a 2016 report by PBS’ Frontline found that such practices can “strain criminal justice systems, burden impoverished people with fines for minor offenses, and fracture the relationship between police and minorities.”

Such an uneven track record for broken windows policing should encourage BART to ensure equal enforcement of the law, and check in regularly through a formal review policy to make sure Crunican’s proposal is having the desired result. However, the recent high profile attacks on BART and an ongoing issue with farebox recovery shows that BART does need to make some changes.

  • p_chazz

    I see fare evaders jumping gates and using the emergency exits with impunity all the time and no one ever stops them. This creates a moral hazard. People see that and think, they can ride the system and not pay fares, why not me? How hard would it be to have a couple of BART police officer stationed at every station during rush hours to discourage fare evasion at peak times.

  • SF Guest

    What could deter fare evaders is to lock the emergency gate and give the booth agent control to open it; however, that’s the other problem that encourages fare evasion is the agent is missing over half the times.

    Keeping the emergency gate unlocked is too inviting the way it is now.

  • david vartanoff

    the agent is just as often there but oblivious/chatting w/other BART employees. Three of my most recent four late evening returns from SF to Ashby, someone has simply walked out the emergency door to the parking area. In prior years this at least would have sounded an alarm, but not currently In each instance the agent was present.

  • SF Guest

    Even when the agent is present that’s not going to deter emergency gate abuse unless they keep the gate locked and give control to the agent.

  • david vartanoff

    LockingA emergency gates is likely a fire code violation. a video surveillance cam OTOH provides evidence for a high fine.

  • LazyReader

    Nevermind the fact BART is literally falling apart with billions of dollars in deferred maintenance. BART’s board of directors laid out a laundry list of things it can do to address their problems…

    – raise fares
    – crack down on fare jumpers
    – increase advertising
    – increase parking fees
    – charge companies that send buses to pick up employees at BART stations
    – automate trains to eliminate drivers.

    Will BART implement any of these changes? Nah. Maybe increase parking fees; Even if they did, it would not cover their operating deficits. Including 142 Million in public health
    and pension liabilities, not to mention BART’s 10 Billion dollar maintenance backlog. Even when they voted to raise property taxes to cover 3.5 Billion in rehabilitation that still leaves 6.5 billion unfunded. Instead of fixing existing BART lines, they’re going thru with
    $6.1 Billion in new construction for extensions. BART’s costs have cut bus service to local riders. Of course none of these upgrades and extensions will matter as they won’t be available until 2025 or beyond, in other words they will be complete just in time
    for the first self-driving cars and vans to steal its customers away. It doesn’t really matter whether driverless autos take over urban transport by 2020, 2030, 2040 or 2050. Even without the tech, transit ridership is declining almost everywhere in the US. Poor people buy cheap cars and simply give rides to other poor people, Impoverished carpooling i.e. “Bum rides” and informal ride-sharing were decimating the transit industry long before Uber or Lyft existed.

    BART’s deterioration is nothing but a symptom of a larger Syndrome of San Francisco’s liberal attitude that subsidizes indecent behavior. The streets and sidewalks and transit stations are full of defecate, urine, used needles and garbage.
    1: Laws against public indecency aren’t enforced
    2: The city and state governments are INCENTIVIZING this disgusting behavior.
    3: THE MOST important reason; NO Expectations for the underclass to improve their behavior.
    When government who runs your city, have a political motivation to pander to people who’re dysfunctional, poorly behaved, engage in lewd or self destructive acts, their policies do nothing but foster more dysfunctionality, poor behavior and lewd acts and disavowing self respect and personal dignity. Then your cities problems of the consequences of people who have zero dignity and self respect……only continue to get worse. If you subsidize a culture of degeneracy and debasement, you make it attractive for more people. If you turn a blind eye to pooping on the streets and shooting needles in public, don’t act surprised if people start POOPING on the street and doing heroin. YOU’RE GOING TO GET MORE OF IT.

  • p_chazz

    An emergency gate cannot be locked. If there were an actual emergency and the station agent was not present, people could be trapped in the station. What BART did at Embarcadero station was to post signs announcing that people using the emergency gate would have their picture taken. Not sure how great a disincentive that is for fare evaders, though.

  • Parque_Hundido

    Add to that zero tolerance towards panhandlers, beggars, buskers and other low-lifes on the trains. Almost every time I am on BART in the East Bay there are some intimidating kids on the trains hustling for cash