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BART to begin bans of unruly passengers next week

April 29, 2013 6:38:18 PM PDT
BART is rolling out a new plan that will allow it to ban passengers who don't behave. The process started more than a year ago, when state legislators passed a law giving BART that power.

BART already has something called a "stay-away" order that the transit agency can issue, but that needs to go through local prosecutors' offices and can take a long time. This new plan gives BART the power to make a decision and act right away.

"We are really wanting to send the message that if you are going to come onto our system and be unruly or violent, there are going to be consequences," said BART spokesperson Alicia Trost.

BART officials have had it with people who threaten their employees or try and sell drugs to their passengers. Starting next week, BART police will have the power to ban people from the trains and the stations.

"Not only is this for someone that is going to come and start a fight with a passenger or one of our frontline employees. It is also for those who are urinating on our system, graffiti, trying to sell drugs on our system. It's everything that is going to make the BART environment safer," said Trost.

If someone commits a violent criminal act, such as hitting a station agent, they can be banned right away. The new law requires a little more tolerance for the lesser offences.

"Repeat offenders who come onto our system and commit certain offenses more than three times in a 90 day period will now get cracked down on. They are going to be issued a prohibition order," said Trost.

Some BART riders have concerns that this goes a little too far, while others applaud the idea.

"When you are going to work and you are trying to do the right thing, you don't need all that kind of nastiness and noise," said Harold Day of San Leandro.

"I don't necessarily think it's fair," said Karla Sohol of Richmond.

"I've been spit on, I've been shoved, I've been punched," said ATU president Antoinette Bryant. Bryant and her fellow BART employees say they have scored a victory against violent and offensive passengers. "This bill, it gives us a measure of breathability, if you will, to the fact that if someone is a repeater, they can be expelled from the system."

State Assembly Bill 716 allows BART to issue "prohibition" orders to people who are cited or arrested for certain offenses. It is a provision that isn't currently granted to BART employees or its passengers. AB 716 will make it a criminal infraction for those banned to return to BART stations or use the regional transit system for up to one year. However, with new policing powers, come fears of overreach.

"Certain instances have happened over the years that have caused some tragic things to happen, but you got to be careful who your profile," said BART passenger Kadmiel McCrory.

The concerns resonate with BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey. He said, "As a person of color, I'm certainly sensitive to those types of issues."

Rainey says a three pronged approach, which included the implementation of an advisory committee, months-long retraining of officers and community outreach was instituted before the new law went into effect.

"Anybody who feels they are being mistreated by the police officers or unfairly targeted, they have many, many avenues to seek out and get relief," said Rainey.

"Race is not an issue in this and it should not be one, nor is geographic location of the BART stations. Again, this is system wide," said Bryant.

AB 716 won't only target violent behavior. It can be applied to protestors who have been arrested during free-speech movements.

More than 300,000 people ride BART every weekday. Identifying and stopping those who have been cited and banned from re-entering may not be possible, but starting Monday, employees and passengers may feel better knowing a new rule will try.

This is already in place in Sacramento in Fresno, where officials say it is working.


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