After years of steady population growth, public transportation has become a critical component to Bay Area life. But one of the primary options, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has become increasingly dangerous.
The murder of Nia Wilson at the MacArthur Station in Oakland was the latest tragedy on the transit system. The 18-year-old girl was randomly stabbed in the neck. Her sister Letifah was also stabbed and survived. Neither of the sisters had any apparent connection with her killer, leaving her murder a crime that seems alarmingly spontaneous.
Wilson’s death and the increase of crime has created enough concern to prompt BART into action.
Violent crime on BART has increased 69 percent, according to Department of Justice data released in July. Over the first six months of 2018, more than 220 violent crimes were committed on BART.
The spike in violent crime has prompted new security measures. Recently, BART’s General Manager Grace Crunican introduced the new safety features, which includes a $5.2 million investment in emergency call boxes and a new $15 million surveillance system for station entrances with real time tracking, according to DailyCal.org.
But locals and passengers have concerns.
The surveillance will not include facial recognition nor can collect personal information about suspects, something critical for random crimes like the one that happened to Wilson and her sisters. Also, the new system is estimated to take four and a half years to install, and the call boxes will take about two years. But riders are feeling vulnerable now and want measures that will protect them in the meantime.
There are also concerns about the economic impact from the $20 million BART will be spending on safety improvements.
“It seems like a waste of that much money,” said LPC student Julian Betancourt, a frequent BART rider. “It does not seem like real measures are being taken for future crimes to be prevented and stopped. It feels like a scapegoat to just tell passengers that they will be safe when in reality there is nothing really being done.”
BART officials also announced new police practices in July. Deputy Police Chief Ed Alvarez said in an interview with KTVU that deployment and patrol strategies are being examined as well as ways to maximize visibility and enforcement.
In addition, BART heavily promotes Watch App. Since its launch in 2014, the application has been downloaded over 46,000 times. Riders are able to send alerts about robberies, disruptive behavior and the like directly to dispatch. The app does not allow riders to reach BART police. For incidents already in progress, riders are encouraged to dial 911.
Even with all the new safety policies being implemented, some Bay Area citizens are still uneasy about using BART.
“You never know who’s going to be on the train,” Livermore resident Lora Jones said. “Security is just one part. Not efficiently reacting to medical emergencies is another.”
UPDATE: On September 28, Governor Jerry Brown Vetoed the bill, stating, “we have enough mischief from midnight to 2 without adding two more hours of mayhem.”