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BART safety tips from Lt. Bill Spears

Thanks to everyone who attended our first Safety Chat, which focused on the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART). This session was hosted by Associate Director of Security Services Martin Ticas and featured Lieutenant Bill Spears of the BART Police Department. During the June 7 session, Lt. Spears talked about the BART PD’s capabilities and shared best practices and actions you can take to enhance your safety on BART while commuting to and from the office and at other times of the day.

BART is an extension of the communities it serves. It includes people traveling to work, airports, schools, museums, special events, concerts and more. Because of this, BART PD must be prepared to handle medical emergencies, quality of life concerns (such as homelessness, mental health and narcotics) and criminal activities.

One of the biggest misconceptions about BART PD is that they are not ‘real’ police officers. BART police officers are fully sworn state police officers with training and authority equivalent to city, sheriff and California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers. They deploy foot patrols – aka train teams – to provide a police presence in BART stations and on trains. They also conduct vehicle patrols around BART stations and parking garages. BART PD works with allied agencies to patrol areas in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

BART operates video cameras throughout stations and on trains to monitor emergencies and criminal activity. Cameras are not constantly monitored, but if an emergency or crime is reported, BART police officers can view footage, find the persons involved and direct officers and resources to affected locations. This footage is often used by allied agencies in their investigations.

Tips for personal safety on BART

Be aware of the situations and people around you

  • Your commitment to personal safety should begin the minute you leave home and extend to entering BART stations.
  • Maintain a defensive body position that demonstrates your awareness (keep your head up).

Don’t be a target of opportunity

  • Do not be distracted by your phone or other electronics.
  • There is strength in numbers — walk in groups and stand near others in trains and stations, if possible.
  • Protect your belongings — keep bags and purses on you, and place larger luggage at your seat or close to where you are standing.
  • Pay extra attention to your belongings if you are seated or standing near a train exit or interconnecting doors. Criminals may take this opportunity to snatch devices and quickly exit the train or car.

Separate yourself from suspicious people and activities

  • Fare evasion – aka piggybacking – is against the law and 88% of those caught perpetrating other crimes on BART do not pay their fare when entering.
  • Avoid people who are wearing masks or other clothing that hides their identity, especially during warm days.
  • If any individual or group of people makes you feel uncomfortable, trust your instinct. Avoid them and stand by other passengers, if possible.
  • If you see someone commit a crime, take a note of essential information, including the suspect’s description, where you were when the crime occurred and a detailed description of what happened.

Know where you are in the BART system

  • Are you on the concourse with the fare gates, ticket machines and station agent booth, platform or a train? When you report a situation, medical emergency or crime, it’s the first question a BART dispatcher will ask, so that they will know where to dispatch the closest officer or ambassador.
  • Make a mental note of your BART car number when you enter the train. You can find the car number on the outside of every train car and in the train car above the interconnecting train doors.
  • If you are on the train, be prepared to report which direction you are traveling in and what station you’re approaching.

How to report a situation, medical emergency or crime

  • It is best to contact BART PD directly. If you call 911, your call must be routed through the CHP before being transferred to BART.
  • Download the BART Watch app for iPhone or Android. The app allows you to silently report a situation by text and include a photo, if needed. The app includes a “Call BART Police” feature which will call BART PD directly, bypassing 911.
  • Please note that like other law enforcement officers, BART officers must follow the rules of law regarding infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. They cannot act unless they see something.
  • BART PD relies on the public’s help to keep BART safe. After you contact BART PD, an officer will board the train and ask if anyone has something to report. Identify yourself so that they can take your statement and handle the situation. You will be asked to sign the report.

For questions about the Safety Chat, contact Visit the BART website for information and resources.

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