OAKLAND (CBS SF) — In the wake of three homicides on the transit system, BART officials announced Monday they were placing their transit officers on a six-day work week to bolster security on trains and stations, as part of a $28 million comprehensive safety and security plan.
BART General Manager Grace Crunican said she was going to ask the BART Board of Directors for the power to impose several new measures after the public outcry concerning rider safety on the system.
The tipping point came when 18-year-old Nia Wilson was fatally stabbed and her sister seriously injured by a knife wielding man at the MacArthur BART station on July 22.
The suspect, 27-year-old John Lee Cowell, was arrested the following day at the Pleasant Hill BART station. He faces murder and attempted murder charges.
Gerald Bisbee, 51, of Pittsburg, died on July 20 after being assaulted at the Pleasant Hill station on July 18 and Don Stevens, a 47-year-old transient, died after being attacked on the platform of the Bay Fair BART station in San Leandro at about 1:20 a.m. on July 21.
In addition, two people were stabbed by an attacker at the MacArthur station on Friday night.
“The tragic murder of Nia Wilson has deeply saddened everyone at BART as well as the communities we serve,” Crunican said in a statement. “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.”
Starting Monday, BART Police officials were temporarily cancelling off days for all its officers. Patrol officers, community service officers and dispatchers would begin to work six 10-hour days a week.
The mission: “Riding the trains all day and making sure the public sees you,” said BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost. “We’re hoping our riders will see and feel like we are responsive.”
Patrol officers who work on their normal days off were being required to ride trains throughout their shifts.
“BART has always been focused on public safety but it’s clear that we must do even more,” Crunican said. “Though this is a temporary measure, it immediately boosts the visible presence of law enforcement throughout the system.”
A second proposal is to train teams of BART employees to staff trains and stations while wearing high-visibility vests to provide an additional layer of visibility to BART’s safety efforts. Such teams would be deployed temporarily at times of greatest need.
Crunican said a third proposal is to accelerate “station hardening efforts” to make it harder for riders to bypass the transit system’s fare gates.
She said those efforts include raising barriers to 5 feet and adding additional fencing to include elevators in paid areas and adding a second proof of payment team for evenings.
A fourth proposal is to have platform emergency call boxes that would be installed on each platform.
Crunican said each call box would have a direct intercom with BART police dispatchers and a camera would activate whenever the intercom button is pushed.
Although stations currently have white courtesy phones to connect to station agent booths, Crunican said the emergency call boxes would offer more options and a quicker connection to dispatch.
A fifth proposal is to install video screens showing real-time station images and enhanced video surveillance signage.
Crunican said the idea would be tested at the Civic Center station in San Francisco, where video screens would be strategically placed at
station entrances to remind riders the area is under surveillance.
BART would install signs that inform people in and around the station that they are under video surveillance.
Crunican also is proposing that there be a no panhandling ordinance within the BART system’s paid areas.
In addition to Crunican’s various proposals, the BART Police Department has contracted with the University of North Texas to develop a five-year strategic plan for appropriate police staffing levels for the BART system.
Crunican said she has the authority to enact some of her proposals on her own but others require board action for procurement or adoption.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.