TSA provides money for more BART patrols

February 2, 2011 6:40:14 PM PST
You'll soon notice some extra security on BART with counter-terrorism teams. The idea is to put more patrols on certain trains, at certain times, to prevent an attack. The federal government is picking-up the tab.

BART has been criticized for not having more officers on trains, so now they will. Regular patrol officers have a minimum requirement of riding two trains per shift. While their primary focus is counter-terror, they are also on board for garden variety law enforcement.

At a Wednesday afternoon briefing, eight BART police officers prepare to head out in teams of two to ride the trains.

They're called the Critical Asset Patrol Team. They'll ride on routes considered critical, that include underground tunnels and the Transbay Tube, where terrorists could do the maximum damage. A $3.6 million grant from the TSA is paying for their salaries and equipment; they are specially trained to prevent a terror attack.

"They're able to concentrate on our ridership, anti-terror activity. They're able to focus all their attention on that rather than being responsible for a patrol beat as well, answering calls, parking lots, those types of things," says BART Police Lt. Aaron Ledford.

The team started patrolling January 10. They work 10 hour shifts, staggered between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. BART says even with the dedicated team, BART's 350,000 daily riders are still key in keeping the trains safe.

"We could really use our customers' help in assisting these officers. They're doing their job, but we also need our customers to if you see something suspicious, say something," says BART spokesperson Linton Johnson.

Daily commuter Rodney Gray says he has noticed the increased presence.

"I've noticed in the last few weeks I have seen more officers, often times as one group of officers gets off the train another group will get on, ride to another stop or two, get off, and they're pacing the trains end to end," say Gray.

Nancy Zaragoza is also a daily commuter.

"I think we need to see more because I didn't see any and I think it just gives you, you just feel safer knowing that you might be protected," says Zaragoza.

But most of BART's regular crime happens in the parking lots and stations. Patrol levels in those areas won't change. But BART does hope to now have better responsiveness on the trains.

"If there's an issue going on the train, they can respond to it. They're not necessarily in vehicles able to respond quickly to the lot, but on the trains they're there, highly visible, and available and they can address the issues that we may not have been able to address as often as we want to," says Ledford.

Separate from this program, riders on the Richmond-Concord line will also notice more officer presence. They're regular patrol officer have a higher minimum requirement than elsewhere on the system. They have to be on the trains or in the stations at least five hours per shift.

The TSA funding is a three-year grant that is renewable and expandable.