BART robberies down by 16 percent, violent crime down by 9 percent

BART is releasing crime figures for 2018, showing arrests are up and overall crime trending down.  

"Really we need to make a safe environment for all of our riders," BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas told KTVU on Tuesday night. 

The transit system stretches across four counties, 46 stations, and carries 400,000 passengers a day, so it' is a challenge to patrol. 

Rojas is pleased that robberies have dropped 16 percent- January through April- compared to the same time last year.

"We know we still have a lot of work to do but we're going in the right direction," said Rojas, "and of course the biggest concern for me are the violent crimes that occur."

Rojas credits passengers for helping thwart crime by stowing their electronics: phones and tablets as their train reaches its destination. 

Their exit onto the platform is when they are most likely to be robbed of those items, if the opportunity is there. 

Overall, violent crime is down 9 percent, but aggravated assault increased 26 percent. In raw numbers: 43 assaults this year, compared to 34 by this time in 2017. 

Still, the chief says BART crime is low considering how many people it serves and how few officers it has. 
"It is a very understaffed police department and from what I've seen it has been historically understaffed."  

Unde-staffing tends to make shove property crime lower in priority, and BART has had more than 900 property crimes so far in 2018, only a slight dip from last year. Twenty two new officers have been hired in 18 months time, but thirty vacancies remain.  

Arrests were already climbing in 2017- and the trend is continuing.

BART arrested 148 people for felony crimes and 410 for misdemeanors, compared to 127 and 390, respectively, during the same period last year.  

The chief says deployment of officers has become smarter and more targeted, including special enforcement in known trouble spots. 

"It is an ongoing struggle in terms of visibility and we are focus on becoming brilliant at the basics and one of those basic is visibility so it really is a work in progress." 

Recently, Rojas has been immersed in controversy over a notorious corridor turned drug den at San Francisco's Civic Center station.

It has been cleared and cleaned after public and political outcry. 

He insists he was acting on the problem before the images hit social media. 

"We've been patrolling that area but what you have is a moment in time," said Rojas, "so when you don't have that consistent and sustainable presence that's when the problems come in." 

Maintaining presence is a challenge, the chief says, because officers find it more efficient to rove between stations in patrol cars, which makes them less visible in stations and on trains. 

"Our riders want to have that feeling of safety," said Rojas, "because the only thing worse than actual crime is the fear of crime."  

Fare evasion remains a multi-million dollar loss for BART, and a six-member enforcement team wrote more than 1,000 citations to fare jumpers they caught over the past few months.