by Christin Ayers

RICHMOND (KPIX) — With BART rider safety a red-hot topic, one grassroots group of self-appointed security guards is doing what some say BART police are not.

Every weeknight, from 5 to 7 p.m., Antwon Cloird and a number of his friends show up at the Richmond BART station to greet riders and offer to walk them to their cars.

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“Even coming off the train, they say ‘thank you, thank you for being here,'” Cloird said.

The men call their operation #WeCare. For months they’ve been serving as self-appointed safety escorts for people arriving at Richmond station at night and now they’re asking BART to help them expand.

They are all volunteers and they started #WeCare about two months ago, shortly after the murder of Nia Wilson at Oakland’s MacArthur BART station.

“We know that the officers are overwhelmed,” said James Williams, another #WeCare volunteer.

So they took matters into their own hands.

“We weren’t going to wait for BART to do anything, We wanted to do something for our community,” Williams recalled.

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The #WeCare team are now familiar faces to BART passengers in Richmond.

“I think it’s amazing that they’re doing this,” exclaimed BART rider Jane Mountcastle. “They just stepped up out of the goodness of their heart!”

The men say they don’t want the program to stop here.

At Thursday night’s packed BART board meeting in Pittsburg, the men lobbied BART to fund their #WeCare program so they can expand it.

They proposed hiring 15 people to cover three-to-four BART stations for 8 hours a day during the morning and evening commute. They estimated the cost at around $1 million.

“We’ve met with BART but there has not been serious dialogue,” Williams said.

A BART spokesperson told KPIX that BART’s union agreement does not allow the transit agency to contract out security work, but BART is considering developing a community ambassador program.

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Cloird and the men of #WeCare say that, no matter what happens, “WeCare ain’t going nowhere! We’re going to be here and we can be bigger and better if we had the resources.”