BART launches new ambassador program to address passenger safety

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- They are not police officers, but like police officers, the 10 new BART ambassadors will be patrolling trains and stations to help keep passengers safe.

The pilot program, which launched Monday, is in response to passenger demands for greater safety on the BART system.

"They are just going to be more eyes and ears on our system. It is just something that our passengers have been asking for for a long time and this is our commitment to them to increase our presence," says BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez.

RELATED: New bill to integrate Bay Area public transportation, hopes to increase ridership

The Ambassadors, who will in uniform but unarmed, will patrol along the entire BART system seven-days-a-week from 2 p.m. to midnight, with be extra coverage on Saturdays.

They have been trained on a variety of topics, including de-escalation and anti-bias training. They are recruits from the BART Police Department's Community Service Officers, who are non-sworn personnel who perform a variety of police services.

"Being more visible, having high visibility on the trains, patrolling and de-escalating situations where we don't necessarily have to call the police," will be part of what the ambassadors do, explains Lateefa Davis, one of the new ambassadors.

RELATED: BART experienced rise in cell phone, laptop thefts in 2019

She says the ambassadors will also be there to help passengers navigate the system. "If that's helping with directions or which BART to get on, if they need help with their clipper card and where to go, that is what we will be there for," says Davis.

Their focus will be patrolling the transbay corridor between 12th St. in Oakland and Civic Center station in San Francisco, which BART says is the most heavily-traveled section of the system.

During the evening commute, the ambassadors, who will work in pairs of two, will increase their coverage areas along the Coliseum station to Union City, and Walnut Creek to Pittsburg/Bay Point.

"It's a promising, first-of-its kind program at BART that will provide a welcoming presence focused on customer service and curbing inappropriate behavior," adds BART Board President Lateefah Simon.

They will be equipped with radios to report safety and security concerns or to call a police officer if enforcement is necessary.

However, some passengers, like Hassani Fountain, are cautious of increased surveillance on the BART system. But he is glad that more is being done to address problems.

"As far as what's been going lately, because they there has been a lot of chaos on BART, anything that helps, should make it better," says Fountain.

The BART board voted in January to fund the six-month pilot program, which costs $690,000. If it proves to be effective, the program could be extended or include adding more ambassadors.

Go here for the latest news and information about BART.

See more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area here.
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.