NBC Bay Area reveals that BART is “one of the most dangerous transportation systems in the country,” and details how rampant various crimes have become, and which stations are the worst for violent crime.
We already knew that violent crime on BART has doubled over the last four years, with aggravated assault, homicide, rape, and robbery incidents up 115 percent over that period. And while the more victimless crimes like ripped-out seats and open drug use get their share of attention, a just-released five-part report from NBC Bay Area crunches the numbers and declares BART “one of the most dangerous transportation systems in the country.”
There are five separate video segments in NBC Bay Area’s “Derailed” investigative series, which appears only in full on its website. And this of course means that several of them might start playing audio simultaneously when you visit the page. That said, all of them are pretty illuminating, and the video above does a nice job transitioning from BART’s glorious 1970s debut as a Cadillac of public transit, to today’s far more troubled system where under-policing may have played a role in the death of Nia Wilson, while over-policing took the life of Oscar Grant.
“I carried pepper spray when I commuted to MacArthur,” rider Michelle Beltrane tells NBC Bay Area, describing scenes like when she saw a woman sucker-punched by a random assailant on the system. The investigation found that last year, there were four violent crimes for every million rides on the BART system. That may sound microscopic, but it’s actually one of the worst rates in the country; in Los Angeles it’s a slightly lower 3.96 per million, New York City’s MTA is less than half that at 1.61, and Washington, D.C. and Atlanta transit systems have violent crime rates even lower than that.
NBC also looked into which station have the worst violent crime rates: The Oakland Coliseum station topped out with 154 violent crimes over the last 5 years, followed by Fruitvale (121), Bayfair (113), and West Oakland (88). The most crime-infested stations here in San Francisco are, unsurprisingly, Civic Center, Powell, and 16th and Mission stations, where one janitor was badly beaten and required four surgeries after a rider accused him of throwing away the rider’s lunch.
“I have a plate holding in my eyeball, because it could fall out if I sneeze or cough too hard,” that BART janitor Anthony Delgado tells NBC Bay Area. Delgado adds that he still sees his attacker at the station despite the fact that the rider has been banned, noting the lax enforcement you’d expect from a system that once relied on fake security cameras.
But even when BART has security video, they’re notorious for hiding it from the public. NBC Bay Area tried to get surveillance footage from several violent crimes on the system. “They’re saying they’re not going to give you anything, [the videos] are all exempt,” NBC’s legal counsel Amanda Leith says, after trying.
BART police are quick to point out that crime rates are lower on the system than at the areas surrounding the stations, particularly in downtown Oakland and San Francisco. “We’re a microcosm of the cities that we traverse,” says interim BART police chief Ed Alvarez. “We can’t have our officers at every train at every station.”
The BART Police Department claims to be currently understaffed at 176 officers, and certainly in some situations, there’s just not much they can do.
Public sentiment swings all the time on whether we want more aggressive law enforcement on BART, or less. In the wake of the current McMuffin-gate protests and busking ban backlash, the current mood is to complain about over-enforcement. But it only takes one violent teen flash mob to set off complaints that BART policing is too soft. These are complicated issues for transit system, but go a long way in explaining why their ridership numbers are on the wrong track.
Image: man pikin via Flickr