New BART police chief announced, goals include more officers

Interim BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez was formally introduced as the agency's top cop on Friday, and the new police chief said he will make immediate changes to beef up officer presence on trains and figure out ways to reduce crime on the system to improve rider experience

Alvarez is a 22-year veteran of the BART Police Department and has spent his entire law enforcement career moving up the ranks within the transit agency. Alvarez is a first generation Mexican-American, fluent in Spanish, and grew up in Newark riding BART to A’s games and into San Francisco.  

“I am excited for the opportunity to move the department forward and improve the relationship with our riders and our employees as we work together to make BART the safest transit system in the country,” Alvarez said.  “Our officers take great pride in protecting and securing our busy system, they are skilled and committed, and I will do everything I can to support their efforts.”

He took helm as the interim chief when Carlos Rojas retired in May.  Alvarez was chosen during a nationwide search that included input from BART's Police Citizen Review Board and Independent Police Auditor. 

BART Interim Police Chief Ed Alvarez will be announced as the new BART Police Chief on Friday. Jan. 10, 2019

“Alvarez knows the system and has a vision for safety that includes short-term and long-term strategies to grow the department into a fully staffed, progressive agency serving diverse communities,” said General Manager Bob Powers.  “We must do more to ensure all riders feel safe and to prevent crime on BART.  Ed Alvarez brings the internal knowledge coupled with the creative thinking to better serve our riders, support our officers, and increase accountability without delay.”

The appointment is effective immediately. BART officials said that Alvarez is putting into place new deployment strategies that include:

•    Beginning Monday, a newly created team of 12 sworn police officers will be dedicated to riding trains in pairs and walking platforms on nights and weekends. This team will supplement the newly approved ambassador program which begins Feb. 10,  and will utilize unarmed non-sworn police staff to prevent and de-escalate problems on board trains. Both programs offer 22 police staff dedicated to riding trains, representing a new shift in the deployment strategies of the police department.
•    Immediate evaluation of patrol staffing to determine the feasibility for the creation of newly assigned fixed-post assignments at key stations such as Coliseum, where data shows a high volume of calls for service. These officers would be responsible for the safety and security of a specific station, opposed to current roving patrols. 
•    Increased visibility and engagement with riders to prevent cell phone snatching, especially between Balboa Park and Powell stations where there has been an uptick in the number of juveniles snatching phones, running to make a quick escape, and selling them along Market Street for cash.

In 2019 59% of violent crimes at BART were attributed to electronic thefts. Last year's BART crime stats show crime is up 11% with violent crime up 4% compared to 2018.