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BART gets $6.8 million for security, still at odds on plan

September meeting in Pittsburg will again wrestle with security question

Photo by Sheila Fitzgerald

In the midst of an escalating debate about how make BART safer for riders, the transit agency announced this week that it received a $6.8 million federal grant to improve security.

According to a Monday BART blog:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded BART about $6.8 million in a grant to pay for continued police patrols on trains travelling through BART’s busiest stations, interoperable radio communications systems and for upgraded security cameras at Powell St., Civic Center and 16th St. stations.

[...] These funds will fund the conversion of analog cameras at 16th St. to modern digital cameras, aligning them with existing digital technology at other downtown stations. BART has more than 4,000 cameras on trains and in stations and is moving to integrate and modernize the entire security system.

Photo by Sheila Fitzgerald

In all, $3.6 million will go toward camera conversion, $2 million toward installing new radio equipment, and the remainder will go toward BART police programs. BART General Manager Grace Crunican credits Congressperson Eric Swalwell of Alameda County with spearheading lobbying efforts.

The infusion of cash is a lucky break for BART on a topic where its luck appears otherwise consistently rotten.

A string of fatal crimes, including the murder of 18-year-old Oakland resident Nia Wilson at MacArthur Station in July, spurred Crunican to propose a suite of new security policies, including increasing police presence on BART and installing new surveillance systems.

But BART’s Board of Directors has not agreed on whether to implement many of Crunican’s plans.

At an August hearing, public comment was so adamantly against most of the proposals that Contra Costa County BART rep Joel Keller demanded the next meeting be held “in a suburban city,” where he contends public sentiment will strike a different tone.

In fact, Keller is getting his wish, as BART also announced this week that its September 27 board meeting will focus on security and will be held at Pittsburg City Hall:

The BART board voted in August to hold a special night meeting in a suburban location to further discuss General Manager Grace Crunican’s Safety and Security Action Plan.

[...] The board is moving towards adopting a district surveillance policy. A final vote on this policy could come at this meeting depending on actions that take place at the September 13th meeting. BART has already made clear that any boosts to system safety will not include the implementation of facial-recognition technology.

Crunican has already gone ahead with some measure that do not require board approval, including highly visible monitors at Civic Center Station as a “friendly reminder we have working cameras.”