BART Board of Directors swears in a new transit police chief

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- BART's board of directors swore in Carlos Rojas as the new chief of the transit agency's Police Department this morning during their regular meeting in Oakland.

"I just want to thank you for this opportunity and this privilege to be the chief of the BART police," Rojas said, shortly after posing for a photo with the board.

"I really view it as an honor to serve as a police chief in this capacity," for the people who rely on BART for transportation, Rojas said.

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The transit agency has been riddled with an uptick in crime in recent years.

Just last night a woman was sexually battered on a BART train between the Richmond and North Berkeley stations. The unidentified man fled the scene before police could get to him.

The mob-type robberies that have occurred near The Coliseum are now also on Rojas' radar. BART passengers say they are concerned about these types of crimes.

"We are down about 35 officers, that's pretty significant for a force of less than 200 and riders say to me that they would like to see a visible presence of law enforcement that there are incidents that come up or just feeling safe," said Bevan Dufty, a BART Board Member from District 9.

Chief Rojas says the community needs to be involved when fighting some of these crimes.

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"It's about the prevention side of it and also the outreach with families and members of the community that hopefully we can keep these youths from doing acts like that," said Rojas.

At the top of Rojas agenda in his new role: getting to know his rank and file, improving the culture of the department and looking into the department's resources.

"Right now it's a difficult time to hire anywhere in California for police officers. I think we need to really work smarter and try to leverage our resources as much as we can," said Rojas.

A citizens' watch committee approved revisions to that policy. The BART board is now reviewing it.

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Rojas served as chief of the Santa Ana Police Department for five years before coming to the Bay Area and has 27 years of law enforcement experience as well as expertise in community-oriented policing practices and homeland security issues.

He will be BART's first Latino police chief, according to the transit agency.

Grace Crunican, BART's general manager, announced the hire last month.

"The Police Department has been moving in the right direction, and I am confident that our new chief will accelerate our efforts to increase the visibility of police officers on our trains and in our stations," Crunican said in a statement back in April.

The Bay City News contributed to this post.
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