OAKLAND, Calif. (Christien Kafton) - Bay Area Rapid Transit is facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit from passengers victimized in a mob-style attack, who say the agency needs to do more to keep passengers safe.
In his first one-on-one television interview, BART's new police chief explained his plan to combat a recent spike in crime system-wide.
"My wife and daughter will not get on BART by themselves," said Rusty Stapp, who was onboard that train and was robbed. "None of us will get on BART after dark."
Now, BART's new chief of police, Carlos Rojas says he's got a plan to make the agency safer going forward. "There are areas where we need to improve," said Rojas.
The new chief was sworn in May 25, just as BART was releasing data showing a spike in crime. The chief says the answer lies, at least partly, in increasing his staff.
"We have about 38 vacancies right now," said Rojas. "So, in about 18 months it's an aggressive goal but we want to hire the 38, I don't know if we'll get there, but we're making every effort to do so."
The chief says more officers will allow him to place more officers on platforms, and on trains, especially in higher crime areas.
But, the chief says, he's already using the officers at his disposal, to flood trouble spots with officers. "We've instituted a robbery suppression detail, that focuses on riding trains in the areas where we have those incidents occur."
The chief has has also focused on cracking down on fare evaders. Stopping fare evaders, he says, creates a safer system overall. "They have warrants, they have drugs, we have folks with guns that have fare evaded," said Rojas.
Those who've been targeted on BART says that may be a move in the right direction, but it doesn't go far enough. "There's multiple things that need to be done. The videos need to be released," said Stapp. "Those pieces need to get out so they can start arresting those people."
BART still hasn't released video of the April attack despite repeated requests, saying the assailants appear to be minors. But, releasing video and photos from other instances has been successful in locating those suspects. BART release a still from a video of robbery suspect, in August, and within hours Mario Christopher Washington was in custody. BART has also released a still of a suspect from over the weekend who they believe passed a threatening note to a fellow passenger, trying to rob her.
Looking forward, Rojas says it wouldn't make sense to gauge his success solely on crime statistics. He says looking at passenger safety as well as passengers sentiment, whether passengers feel safe, is a better gauge. "I don't think there will be one measure that will say hey, I think we have to look at it with a holistic approach," said Rojas.