By John Ramos

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — There are plans in the works to put more security personnel on BART trains, but the people on patrol won’t be carrying guns.

In fact, they won’t be sworn officers at all as BART considers taking a lighter approach to security.

BART says when they ask riders what would make them feel more secure, they tend to get a similar response: They’d like to see more police presence on the trains and platforms.

From fare evasion to drug use to generally anti-social behavior, riders want someone there to keep things in order.

“I think a presence is a good thing,” said BART board member Bevan Dufty.  “Let’s be real about it; BART has a reputation of anything goes.”

Dufty says he understands the BART police force is severely understaffed with only 198 sworn officers, so he is proposing what are being called BART “ambassadors.”

They will be operated by the BART Police Department, but the two-person teams will not be sworn-in officers, won’t be armed and will have no uniform other than perhaps a BART windbreaker.

“These community service officers are ambassadors,” Defty said. “They’ll have walkie talkies to communicate with BART police, so if a situation is more serious, we’re going to have an immediate response.”

Russell Bloom, BART’s independent police auditor, appeared on CBSN Bay Area Tuesday afternoon and said this would be a cost-effective way of boosting security.

“This is a means by which the need for additional presence can be balanced with the lack of available existing officers,” Bloom said.

Recently, BART police have been criticized for being heavy handed after an officer detained a man for eating a sandwich on a platform. Dufty says in situations like that or perhaps in contact with homeless people, it sometimes helps to take a lighter approach.

“In some ways, an ambassador or someone who’s not going to run a warrant check, not someone who’s going cite somebody, might be received better,” he said.

The six-month pilot program would cost roughly $690,000 to create five teams of ambassadors. The BART Board of Directors will vote on the proposal at its meeting on Thursday. If approved, the ambassadors could be patrolling as soon as February 10th.

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