BART official proposes adding civilian safety ambassadors

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A BART director wants civilian safety ambassadors to ride the trains to beef up security. (KGO-TV)

A BART director is proposing adding civilian safety ambassadors to ride the trains. He'll pitch the idea at Thursday's board meeting where additional BART officers will also be requested.

The people would be extra sets of eyes and ears working to de-escalate situations and prevent crimes. The idea is inspired by a Muni program that's been in place since the late 1990's.

"I think the most important message is we're losing riders on evenings and weekends and that's going to affect BART's bottom line," said Bevan Dufty, BART District 9 Director.

High profile crimes and drug use on trains and in stations is taking a toll on ridership. To help, Dufty is proposing hiring civilian safety ambassadors to ride the trains.

"Our interest is really in getting a safety presence, a visible presence on the trains in the station, de-escalating conflict situations, helping people that need help to get that help," explained Dufty.

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Some riders are skeptical.

"I don't need Joe-Schmo who thinks he's a BART police officer acting like a BART police officer and being emboldened to do something that a police officer does cause that's how people get hurt," said Philip Smith, Oakland resident.

Dufty says the program would be modeled off an existing Muni ambassador effort.

"I think we absolutely can do it, it's been a huge success. I think a very quiet success at Muni that this program has existed since 1997," said Dufty.

BART launched a similar pilot program started at the Civic Center and Powell Street stations in April. Paid civilians monitor the elevators to make sure people aren't relieving themselves or doing drugs inside.

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"Twelve-hundred people a day in wheel chairs now feel safe being on our elevators and I use that as an example of what I think a public safety presence can be that isn't law enforcement," said Dufty.

"That's excellent. I think that anything that is offered for security should be used," noted Dayna Pricer, Alameda resident.

There's also a proposal to add more officers. Some feel BART is safe day to day, despite high profile incidents.

"I don't know that having more officers is going to solve anything. A lot of people take the train," said Linda Maduwura, Danville resident.

Dufty is going to make the proposal at Thurday's board meeting. He will be asking BART staff to come up with a program for the directors to consider.

For an idea of potential costs Muni's program costs $1.2 million for 17 full time employees. BART would likely start with double the amount of people and then scale up to three times the amount.

Find more stories, photos, and videos on BART here.
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