BART Police Department reports surge in arrests for 2017
Newly compiled crime data shows BART officers made 1,730 arrests in 2017, a nearly 40% increase from a total of 1,238 arrests in 2016. The new figures also highlight an increased focus on fare evasion as well as significant declines in auto and bicycle thefts.
“We’re doing all we can to increase the visible presence of our officers on trains and in stations and we think that effort is making a difference,” said BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas. “We are also utilizing new strategies based on data and crime trends that allow us to deploy our officers in the most effective way possible.”
A new focus on fare enforcement
2017 featured various targeted operations at stations across the BART system to discourage fare evasion. Those efforts resulted in 8,223 instances where BPD officers issued citations, warnings, or otherwise contacted suspected fare evaders. That’s an increase of nearly 88% from a total of 4,382 such contacts in 2016. Those efforts are being built on with the implementation of BART’s new proof of payment policy. BART is currently deploying a team of Community Service Officers to crackdown on fare evasion as well as hardening stations to make it more difficult to enter without paying.
Decrease in auto and bike thefts
Despite a growing trend of auto crimes in many of the communities BART serves, BPD reports a year-over-year decline in systemwide auto thefts. BART had 420 auto thefts in 2017 compared with 480 the previous year. That’s a decrease of about 13%. There are approximately 47,000 parking spaces throughout the BART system.
BART also experienced a decline in bike thefts with 448 reported in 2017. That’s down nearly 18% from the 2016 total of 544. Along with new police enforcement strategies BART has also increased the number of high-security racks and opened new bike stations to give riders more options to safely store their bicycles.
Prohibition orders keeping violent offenders away from BART
BPD issued 315 prohibition orders in 2017 compared with 276 the previous year for an increase of more than 14%. State law allows BART to issue prohibition orders against those who have acted violently, sold narcotics, or defaced BART property. “Prohibition orders make BART safer because they are a tool we can use to prevent violent or repeat offenders from being on our property,” said Rojas. “Our data shows 94% of those who are issued a prohibition order adhere to it. This shows the system is a safer place with prohibition orders.”
Electronic thefts and violent crime
Despite an extensive public outreach campaign, 2017 brought an increase in electronic thefts on the BART system. There were 417 electronic thefts reported on BART in 2017. That’s up 52% from the 274 reported in 2016. Since some cellphone thefts involve the use of force or fear they are considered robberies, which by rule are classified as violent crimes. That is one of the contributing factors behind the increase in violent crimes reported on BART. Last year there was a 24% increase in violent crimes on BART with 347 cases reported compared with 279 in 2016. But along with those increases, the number of arrests is also rising. “Thanks to the high-quality suspect images we are able to get from the multiple surveillance cameras in all of our train cars, we have been able to more quickly identify suspects and share that information with partner law enforcement agencies,” said Rojas. “The word is getting out that BART is not a soft target for these thieves. If you take someone’s cellphone, we have the tools to find you.”
More help on the way
Chief Rojas is continuing to move forward with an aggressive recruiting effort to bolster the ranks of the BART Police Department. In 2017 BPD hired 25 employees with 16 of them being police officers. That’s the highest number of officers hired since 2013. BPD has streamlined its hiring process as well as increased engagement at job fairs and other community events. “The Bay Area is a very competitive environment when it comes to officer recruitment,” said Rojas. “The reforms we’ve implemented to the hiring process are paying off by allowing us to recruit more would-be officers without reducing our standards.”