BART unveils new safety initiatives following recent crime

- The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) general manager proposes large, expensive programs, but provides little real detail, making it a public relations effort to demonstrate BART's commitment to do what it can to quell crime following a recent series of crime.  

"Over 2 million persons weekly, mostly without incident,” said BART General Manager Grace Crunican. “We're a very safe system when compared to other systems.”

Nonetheless, on her own existing authority, the general manager said she is extending police work hours, training some employees to work overtime as unarmed ambassador/monitors, aggressively marketing the BART WATCH app for riders to report concerns, launching a "Ride Safe” education program as well as testing a sophisticated surveillance system to detect criminal and unusual activity at the Lake Merritt Station. 

Crunican also proposed a half dozen security enhancements that would ultimately require Board approvals. "What I am looking for, as general manager, is a sign from the board that it will support moving ahead to forward any of the items you approve today. I'm looking for the efficient use of staff resources so I don't want to chase items that really don't have board support," said Crunican. 

That includes ultimately installing the sophisticated surveillance system, vastly increasing in the amount of surveillance cameras and their quality, emergency call boxes and prohibiting pan-handling beyond the fare gates. 

"We are seeking a nod of approval from today to move further with these initiatives," said BART Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier. But, no facial recognition software would be used and no cell phone information would be collected.

Public comments were mostly but not totally negative. "Fix the fare gates. Don't have cops doing fare inspection. It's just gonna lead to a lot of hostile encounters. What I do like, and I'm not here just to criticize stuff, I do like the unarmed ambassadors program," Darrel Owens. 

"I don't want to be treated like a suspect, surveilling me," said Don Fogg. 

"Opposed to the police working overtime. If they are very tired and overworked, I don't know that they'll be making as good decisions as otherwise," said Ben Ebersol. 

"This agenda does not actually advance safety. There are no proposals for mental health specialist in stations," said Alexander Post. 
"Before approving any surveillance method, the Board should closely examine risks to privacy, dissent and communities of color," said Camille Ochoa if the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The board will vote on an overall surveillance policy next month. The board approved getting bids for cameras and call boxes.  The rest of the issues will be decided only after a special meeting in an outlying area of the BART system to hear what other folks have to say.


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