(CBS SF) — BART police have begun enforcing a ban on sleeping, lying down or sitting with legs extended at Powell Street Station Monday with plans to expand the ordinance to all BART stations, prompting many homeless people to move elsewhere.
A three-step policy will be used by officers who have also posted temporary notices of the new ordinance at the Powell Street Station.
Offices will give a verbal warning for the first offense and ask the person to stand up or sit with legs crossed or beneath them. On the second offense, an officer will check identification and issue a citation without a fine. The third time could result in arrest, a fine or jail.
Nine officers were behind Monday’s initial enforcement, which police claim has nothing to do with kicking the homeless out of BART stations. Instead, BART says it’s a safety measure to ensure proper evacuation in case of an emergency.
“We determine the people who are sleeping, not aware of their surroundings, pose a hazard to our patrons,” said BART Deputy Chief Jeff Jennings.
BART police are referring to a state code making it illegal to block an evacuation route during an emergency.
In 2012, an explosion and smoke at Civic Center BART station sent people scrambling.
“We find it our obligation to mitigate that disaster, making sure people in the station are awake,” Jennings said.
But BART rider George Koster says kicking people out doesn’t solve the real problem.
“I’ve been here 30 years, homeless issue has been here 30 years, and will continue to be until we develop real solutions,” Koster said.
BART police approached 17 people at Powell Street Station on Monday. One person was arrested for outstanding warrants. The rest cooperated with police and migrated above ground to nearby street corners.
Shortly after the police action, Powell BART looked like a brand new station.
But some riders aren’t convinced cracking down on people “sitting” is a path police should be going down.
“Seeing someone there I would be very watchful,” said Bridged Karkara. “But I understand where they’re coming from. I don’t lean either way.”
Police are working with local non-profits and homeless organizations to literally get people up and back on their feet.
BART will take a look at how the program’s going in a couple of weeks and present what they find to city officials.