OAKLAND, Calif. - Many BART riders now have some extra company on the platforms and on the trains. They're called ambassadors.
Under a pilot program that began Monday, 10 new unarmed ambassadors broke off into two-person teams and patrols to become an extra set of eyes and ears for police, and to provide an extra layer of security for passengers.
"This is our commitment to our ridership that they've been asking for and we are going to give them," said BART police chief Ed Alvarez.
Passengers seemed to appreciate the new ambassadors.
"Visibility. You know there is someone around to be helpful and to have your back," said rider Edy Chan.
The ambassadors carry Narcan in case they encounter drug overdoses, pepper spray and two-way radios connected to BART police dispatch. They also have to take into account their own safety.
"I can get on my radio. If I felt there was any harm I will remove myself from the area and contact police," said ambassador Lateefa Davis.
The ambassadors will be on the trains and platforms from two o' clock in the afternoon until midnight, seven days a week.
"They're going to be in the SF-Oakland area that we refer to as the core of the system. But we will also be pushing them down to the end of the line so our riders can get presence in that part of the system as well," said Alvarez.
Each ambassador has been trained in deescalation techniques. Their job is to tackle quality of life concerns, but not get into confrontations with people.
They can also answer questions from passengers.
The idea for the ambassadors program was born in the wake of the 2018 stabbing death of 18-year-old Nia Wilson by a knife-wielding stranger.
The BART Police Officers Association supports the program and will oversee it.
"Patrolling and kind of deescalating situations where we don't necessarily have to call police. Just education and give people the resources we have," said Davis.
BART will evaluate the ambassadors program in six months. If all goes well it could become permanent and possibly even expanded.