OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - At a BART Board sub-committee meeting on Recruiting and Staffing, BART's still new police chief outlined steps he will take to stem what some would call a crime wave.
BART stations and trains have traditionally been some of the safest places in the Bay Area, but a spike in crime, including an uptick in rapes and sexual assaults, and bold mass robberies by gangs has upset that calm.
Compared to the first five months of last year, crimes on BART this year, for the same period are up. Assaults, robberies and rapes are up 41 percent; auto thefts, petty thefts, burglaries and arson, up 14 percent.
Most notably, there have been two recent mass gang robberies of patrons at the Coliseum Station.
BART has high quality surveillance video of the crimes, but will not release it to the public for fear of tainting any prosecutions.
Rusty Stapp and his family were victims of one of those robberies, involving 47 robbers, and says the video should be released. "I think it's one of many steps BART needs to take to start protecting the passengers," said Stapp.
He says there were several times that the group's misdeeds on and off the train, should have been responded to by BART Police; police who already readily familiar with some of the perpetrators.
"The individuals who assaulted us and robbed us; they were multiple repeat offenders, the police knew who these individuals were," says Stapp. But, Former San Francisco Police Chief and now USF Professor of Criminology Tony Ribera says he would release the video. "My policy, generally, would be to err on the side of transparency, sharing information with the public," said Ribera.
In the bigger picture, BART currently has 40 unfilled officer slots; more than one in every five budgeted positions; vacant. To cure that, BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas wants to offer bonuses to those who ultimately are sworn in.
"That's something that's very common in law enforcement and they do vary from $5,000 up to as high as $30,000. And, we're looking at doing a program that would be somewhere between $10,000 to $15,000," said Chief Rojas.
Former SFPD Chief Ribera has faith in the new BART chief. "I'm sure he knows what to do. I would just hope that the BART Board of Directors gives him the support he needs to get the job done," said Ribera.
BART continues to be successful because it's frequent, accessible, affordable and safe. But, crime waves have a tendency to undermine all of that.