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BART steps up rider safety measures

BART officials on Thursday will decide on a $28 million package of safety measures to keep riders safe on the transit system after a number of high-profiled stabbings in recent weeks, including the death of 18-year old Nia Wilson last month.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican said in a statement:

“The tragic murder of Nia Wilson has deeply saddened everyone at BART as well as the communities we serve. 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.”

In the most-highly publicized homicide, Wilson, 18, was fatally stabbed at the MacArthur station in Oakland at 9:36 p.m. on July 22. John Lee Cowell, a 27-year-old transient, was arrested the next evening and has been charged with murder and other offenses.

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.

Some measures are already going into effect under Crunican’s authority.

On Monday, the transit agency announced that the BART Police Department has already temporarily canceled days off for police officers. Patrol officers, community service officers and dispatchers are now working six 10-hour days each week.

Officials said while this is temporary, riders should see a more visible presence of officers at the station and inside trains.

Crunican is also calling for the deployment of BART employee station teams, where employees would be trained in advance to help staff trains and stations wear vests to add another layer of visibility onboard trains and station platforms.

Additionally, Crunican wants to see more marketing and education campaigns for the BART Watch app.

The BART general manager will need the approval of the BART Board of Directors on other safety measures such as the expansion and conversion from analog to digital security cameras districtwide, which would cost approximately $15 million and four and a half years to complete.

She also wants the board to approve installing emergency call boxes at each station platform and installing video screens that will real time images and video surveillance signage to remind riders that they are under surveillance.

The estimated cost to implement the measures needed for approval by the BART board is $28 million.

BART officials are also reviewing a program by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency called the Muni Transit Assistance Program. The program trains community members to help resolve conflicts and assist Muni bus drivers as needed on specific Muni routes.

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