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As riders return, BART spotlights public safety

With more passengers taking BART these days, the transit agency this week reminded passengers they have a team of officers and transit ambassadors patrolling the rail system in an effort to keep trains, platforms and stations safe.

BART is seeing its highest ridership since March of 2020 when stay-at-home orders were implemented in the entire Bay Area. Ridership for Wednesday was at 132,528, the transit agency said. Before the pandemic, average weekday ridership stood at 404,553 in February 2020. During the pandemic, average weekday ridership plummeted, as low as 25,142 in April 2020.

As thousands of riders return, BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez said at a press conference that he wanted share with riders the type of transit system they are returning to relation to public safety:

They’re coming back to a system with a renewed focus on safety. We’re a police department that is putting riders first through a focus on our visible presence on trains and stations.”

BART’s transit ambassadors have been around for nearly two years and continue to interact with riders, including providing face masks, carrying Narcan and a radio to contact police.

Alvarez said the increase in non-sworn ambassador personnel on trains and in station has acted as a crime deterrent, citing that violent crime was down 36 percent in 2021 compared to 2020.

The transit ambassadors have patrolled over 2,300 trains and station platforms so far this year, said Deputy Chief Angela Averiett, who leads the BART Police Departments Progressive Policing and Community Engagement Bureau.

BART also has 15 crisis intervention specialists to check on the welfare of people inside its stations and is looking to hire five more specialists. Vice President of the BART board Janice Li said:

These are trained professionals, social workers, who can help engage with folks who are homeless, who are using drugs, who might be having mental health crises, so that those folks get the help they need.”

Alvarez said he recognizes that not every problem at BART requires an armed officer to respond and that the crisis intervention specialists have already made a difference in just a few months they have been on the job.

BART said in addition to recruiting more crisis interventions specialists, transit officials said they are also looking to recruit more than 20 sworn officers.

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