Three new BART officers sworn in as department works to curb violent crime

BART police reached a turning point in its effort to hire more officers. 

The department has faced criticism for not having enough officers on trains and platforms, but the agency says that's changing. 

Three new officers were sworn in on Wednesday, marking a hiring milestone in the department. BART has hired 40 new officers in 2019. That's the same number of officers who joined the force in the last two years combined. 

Interim BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez said, "We know that our ridership is asking for more presence on trains, and we need to give that to them and the way we're going to attain that is by hiring more people and getting them onto the system."

The department has come under fire for not doing enough to tamp down on violent crime and fare evasion. But in hiring new officer, the department says it's starting to turn a corner. 

All three officers transferred from other agencies. Officer Alvarez, who has no relation to the interim chief, was a former officer in Benicia. 

"I was told it takes a lot. You're on your feet. You're doing a different type of policing," Officer Alvarez said. "When I was investigating the department, they're big on community policing as well, so that's something I'm excited about."

It's no secret that a visible presence helps stop crime. 

On Tuesday night, a man was carjacked of his Mercedes SUV at the Walnut Creek station. The victim saw two BART officers at the station on an unrelated matter and arrested the two suspects who were still in the parking garage. 

BART has been on an aggressive hiring spree. In December, the board approved a new labor contract that brings officer salaries closer to the average for other Bay Area law enforcement agencies. BART also offers new cops a $15,000 hiring bonus.