On Monday, BART General Manager Grace Crunican announced a series of potential security changes in response to a string of recent high-profile violent crimes in the system, singling out the murder of 18-year-old Nia Wilson in particular.
On the BART blog, Crunican laid out a series of initiatives, some of which have already begun and some which will need approval from the BART Board of Directors:
- Putting BART police officers on a schedule of six 10-hour shifts each week and foregoing one previous weekly day off, a “temporary measure [to] immediately boost the visible presence of law enforcement.”
- Adding eight new fare inspectors to night shifts to “increase the non-sworn police presence in stations.”
- Installing video monitors at station entrances “to remind readers the area is under video surveillance.” This would begin with a trial run at Civic Center Station.
- Installing three new emergency call boxes on every BART platform that allow passengers to connect straight to BART PD dispatch instead of going through the station agent or using their personal phones to call. Using the call box phones would also activate a security camera.
- Boosting “station hardening efforts”—e.g., additions such as five-foot barriers around paid areas and around elevators that make it more difficult for people to sneak on and off without paying.
- Switching all BART cameras to digital, a process Crunican says will take four and a half years and $15 million.
- Leveling a ban on panhandling at BART stations and on platforms.
Crunican also proposes something called a Physical Security Information Management system:
A fully upgraded system would be capable of monitoring thousands of simultaneous video streams and automating response recommendation to BPD dispatch. The system automatically detects when normal patterns are disrupted, and it then sends an alert to dispatch to monitor the area. Systemwide implementation could take 12 months. Estimated cost is $4 million for implementation and $1.3 million in ongoing costs.
Citing the need for more security, Crunican says, “The tragic murder of Nia Wilson has deeply saddened everyone at BART.”
Wilson, an Oakland woman, died after being stabbed at MacArthur BART station in July during a brazen attack that also seriously injured her older sister.
Wilson was the third homicide on BART that week, after BART PD later revealed that 47-year-old Don Stevens had died after being punched by a fellow passenger at the Bay Fair Station a few days prior (Stevens fell and suffered a head injury) and that 51-year-old BART rider Gerald Bisbee had died from infection of an injury he suffered after a similar train assault.
The proposed security package will cost approximately $28 million. SF Weekly points out that things like fare evasion programs generally cost more to run than they recoup revenue from would be cheats. However, Crunican seems to hope beefed up security around gates and barriers also keeps out dangerous offenders.
In May, BART reported that robberies and violent crime on trains and in stations was down nine percent overall year over year, although the number of assaults reported on BART was up.
The BART Board of Directors will consider the full security package on Thursday.