BART May Dedicate $28M to Questionable Passenger Safety Efforts

Station musicians and other panhandlers may be banned from BART, but new surveillance screens could be installed at entrances to remind riders they're being watched.

In the wake of three BART-related homicides in July, Grace Crunican, the general manager of the system, says she plans to ask the BART Board for $28 million for a new safety and security plan.  

“BART has always been focused on public safety but it’s clear that we must do even more,” Crunican said in a statement. “The tragic murder of Nia Wilson has deeply saddened everyone at BART as well as the communities we serve. Our riders are demanding that we do more to maintain public safety and this plan offers multiple new initiatives we can immediately begin to roll out.”

Wilson, 18, was the victim of a fatal stabbing on June 22, which spurred a massive manhunt for suspect John Lee Cowell. Her death drew national media attention, and hundreds attended her funeral last week.

Less well-covered by the media were the deaths of Don Stevens, 47, who was assaulted and found unconscious at Bay Fair Station on July 21, and Gerald Bisbee, 51, who was stabbed in the knee at Pleasant Hill Station on July 18, later passing away from a fatal infection.

Staffing up stations is just one of several options proposed by Crunican — but it is definitely part of it. Starting Monday, the BART Police Department canceled all of its days off for officers, mandating that patrol officers, community service officers, and dispatchers now work six 10-hour days each week. 

“Though this is a temporary measure, it immediately boosts the visible presence of law enforcement throughout the system,” Crunican said.

On Thursday the BART Board will review other measures, such as installing new surveillance cameras and accelerating “station hardening efforts” to limit riders’ abilities to jump over and otherwise skirt fare gates. Barriers could be raised to five feet, making them harder to scale, and additional fencing could be installed. Ten new fare inspectors fare inspectors could be hired for 3:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. evening shifts, despite evidence that proves they cost much, much more than they save.

New platform emergency call boxes are also being considered, which would activate a camera when the intercom button was pushed. Additionally, Crunican proposes video screens showing real-time station images placed at station entrances, to remind riders that they’re under surveillance. The latter would be rolled out at Civic Center Station first, which has already received 500 dedicated hours of surveillance from SFPD and BART officer each week. 

Finally, panhandling would be banned, so that awesome guy who plays saxophone at the bottom of the 16th Street Mission Station escalators would have to go. 

Crunican told Bay City News she has the authority to enact some of her proposals on her own but others require Board action for procurement or adoption. The proposed changes will be reviewed on at the next BART Board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 9 at 9 a.m. It can be watched online here.

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