As unassuming BART riders commuted to work or crossed the Bay to catch a concert throughout last year, transit police were keeping busy with increased violent crimes and significantly more arrests.
BART police released a crime report Tuesday, which shows a nearly 40 percent increase in arrests, and a 24 percent increase in violent crime on its trains and stations since 2016. Electronic thefts were also up by 52 percent — or 417 thefts — despite a touted public outreach campaign of visual and audible warnings throughout the system for riders to secure their phones.
As some electronics are stolen using force or fear, they’re counted among the 347 reported violent crimes, which BART cites as one of the reasons for the increase.
Last Friday, a woman on a Pittsburg-Baypoint train experienced this first hand when a young male shoved her at Embarcadero Station, took her iPhone and ran off the train. And in February, four suspects dragged a rider off a train at Powell Street Station, beating him and stealing his iPhone X.
Both cases are under investigation and authorities have not yet arrested suspects, says BART Police Sgt. John Power. But police say high-quality images from their surveillance cameras have helped identify suspects, and contribute to more arrests.
“The word is getting out that BART is not a soft target for these thieves,” says BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas. “If you take someone’s cell phone, we have the tools to find you.”
Bike thievery has also become more difficult thanks to more secure bike racks and bike lockers, BART says. There were 448 thefts reported in 2017, down from the 544 reported in 2016.
BART riders who park in the system’s 47,000 parking spaces can also breathe a small sigh of relief. Car burglaries have slightly decreased from to 420 thefts in 2017 to 480 the previous year.
As SF Weekly previously reported, prohibition orders have been a tool to keep violent or unruly passengers away from BART for a limited time. They’re being used more frequently; In 2017, police issued 315 prohibition orders — a 14 percent increase from 2016.
Not every BART rider may witness violent crimes or thefts but others may notice officers stationed by the platform to check for valid fares. That’s due to the Muni-inspired fare evasion crackdown that took effect in March.
We may not see the impact on 2018 numbers for several more months but in 2017, BART police issued 8,223 citations, warnings or otherwise interacted with suspected fare evaders — a nearly 88 percent increase from the year before.
With another 16 police officers added to the transportation network team last year, it’s going to be harder than ever before to misbehave on BART.