BART police increase presence around trains, stations

BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas and Deputy Chief Lance Haight spent part of their day riding the trains, just like all the BART officers.

“You have to lead by example. Our officers are making quite a sacrifice," said Rojas.

The top cops boarded a Fremont train at Lake Merritt Wednesday afternoon and quickly walked from one car to the next – nine cars in all. 

"We want people to feel safe. And right now there is a big issue with the perception of safety. We want to reassure passengers that BART is safe," said Rojas.

They came across one man who was sleeping along two seats and appeared disoriented. They later learned he had been riding BART all day but he hadn't committed any crimes. Passengers said they were happy about the increased police presence.

“Their presence is here. People see that and it makes me feel safer," said passenger Donna Kaplan. 

Other frequent riders say they have yet to see officers on BART.

"I would prefer to see BART police roaming around and making sure everything is going smoothly, but I don't see any of it," said passenger Marisol Pena.

Following the stabbing death of 18-year-old passenger Nia Wilson and two other recent stabbings, BART officers are working six-day, 60 hour weeks for the next three weeks to get more officers on trains.

But what happens after three weeks?

"When we scale back we will still have overtime positions so they can function on the trains in train teams," said Rojas.

The public policy organization Bay Area Council proposed Wednesday that police officers from cities throughout the system help patrol the trains and stations.

Currently police departments respond to problems when they are close, but they don't do routine patrols at BART.

The BART police officer’s union says BART needs to hire more police officers and dismiss the proposal.

"Having officers who know our system patrol it is the best way to address the issue," said the written statement from POA president Keith Garcia.

"As a Contra Costa resident I don't want my beat officers going out to BART when I know there is much less activity going on at a BART station than there is in any given city throughout the Bay Area," said Rojas. 

The BART chief is working on a five-year plan for the police department, which he plans to present next month.

On Thursday, the police chief and the general manager will be presenting a safety plan to the BART Board of Directors.