SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- BART experienced a spike in laptop and cell phone thefts in 2019, renewing rider concerns about surging crime rates on the transit system.
According to ABC7 News Contributor and San Francisco Chronicle Insider Phil Matier, there were 1,180 thefts of devices in 2019. He reported the statistics in Wednesday's Chronicle.
There were 512 robberies and thefts that happened within San Francisco city limits. The tally represents an increase of 288 thefts over 2018, Matier writes in his column.
"The common factor is people are just not being aware particularly when the doors are open," said Bevan Dufty, a BART Board Director whose district includes San Francisco. "That's when the opportunity exists to grab something and jump off of a train."
Dufty said BART's new transit police chief, Ed Alvarez, is rolling out a new crime fighting strategy to deal with the surge in thefts and robberies.
Alvarez will have much needed help in his ranks too: 63 police officers were hired in 2019. Twelve of those were lured from other police agencies.
"They are not getting cars, they're not getting electric motorcycles," Dufty said. "They're going to be riding the trains, and that's what the passengers have really wanted."
On Feb. 10, 10 uniformed, unarmed community service officers will begin riding the trains as well, part of a strategy to put more BART personnel in the system to improve safety.