OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Calls for BART Police to get help in fighting crime by tapping resources from other police agencies are getting dismissed by the agency’s police union.
Faced with an ongoing rise in violent crime, including three homicides in less than a week, BART Police is ordering officers to start working 12-hour days, six days a week to beef up understaffed police patrols for the next three weeks – part of a $28 million safety and security plan
However, in light of recent, violent attacks, the business group Bay Area Council wants BART to seek mutual aid and join forces with other police departments to patrol trains, platforms and parking lots.
BART Police union leaders are against the idea. Union spokesperson Keith Garcia says BART needs to go even further
“I think we should have an officer at every station and officers riding the trains,” said Garcia.
But the reality is BART is currently understaffed and now the Bay Area Council – the agency that lobbied to create BART — says it’s time for surrounding police departments to step up and provide mutual aid.
“To say the only people who can possibly address this problem are these couple of hundred officers, most of whom are off duty at any time, while we have literally thousands of officers right in the area of the trains and stations and they are completely disassociated from the problem makes no sense to me,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council.
But Garcia said calling on other agencies isn’t the solution.
“The Bay Area Council’s idea is essentially what we are doing now, but we are just doing it with our own officers,” said Garcia. “We wouldn’t go and request mutual aid for an extended period of time from outside agencies because they have their own communities to patrol and that wouldn’t be fair to the people paying taxes in those communities.”
“Well, I think it’s unfortunate and disturbing when you have a government agency that says ‘no thanks, we don’t need any help’ when clearly the public is screaming for help and the situation calls for it,” said Wunderman.
It’s not clear how BART plans to staff the police patrols after the three-week enforcement period ends. BART Director Debora Allen says at this point, all options should be on table.
“Using mutual aid from other agencies as a stopgap, short-term idea, I don’t think that should affect the unions view because we are still going to be actively trying to hire and fill those vacant positions,” said Allen. “I actually would have loved to put another 50 positions in the budget this year but I did not propose that because we had so many unfilled positions at the time when we approved our budget. ”
Thursday, the BART Board of Directors will consider adopting the $28 million security plan to make riders feel safer. It includes adding high-tech security cameras and making it harder for people to enter the system without paying.
The Bay Area Council says it will be speaking before the board urging the governing agency to have BART police join forces with surrounding police agencies for mutual aid.