Following his appointment today, new BART Police Department Chief Ed Alvarez announced new strategies to address public safety problems on the system, including a newly trained team of 12 sworn officers dedicated to riding trains in pairs and walking platforms on nights and weekends, starting next Monday.
Those new officers will be joined by a team of 10 newly approved unarmed non-sworn ambassadors who will board trains with the aim of using preventative and de-escalation methods to resolve any problems, according to BART. The ambassadors are part of a six-month pilot program.
Alvarez, a 22-year BART police veteran and East Bay native who was serving as interim police chief and previously as deputy police chief, has also ordered the immediate evaluation of staffing to determine the feasibility of fixed post assignments for patrol officers at key stations that receive a high volume of calls for service, like Coliseum, BART said.
Alvarez said riders should be seeing increased visibility and officer engagement particularly between Balboa Park and Powell stations in San Francisco, where there’s been an uptick in the number of juveniles snatching phones, running to make a quick escape, and selling them along Market Street for cash, according to BART.
The newest measures are a response to rider concerns expressed in surveys and elsewhere, according to Alvarez. Earlier this year, BART announced that BART officers and fare inspectors would work extra hours to enhance public safety, a reaction to an officer shortage. BART police are now on a hiring spree.
Alvarez was credited with creating momentum in recruiting more officers. BART has hired “more officers in 2019 than it did in the previous two years combined,” BART General Manager Robert Powers said in a statement.
“This is a new day for the BART Police Department,” said Alvarez. “We need to own the concerns of our riders. The first step is getting more officers on the trains and platforms and showing our riders BART Police is here for you and you are not alone the moment you step onboard a train.”
BART Board President Lateefah Simon credited Alvarez for making the Ambassador program a reality and praised his “openness to different ideas to make the system safe,” according to the transit agency.
“These are unprecedented times…the number of people experiencing houselessness is impacting our system. We need equitable, holistic, compassionate programs that are data-driven,” said Simon.