Violent Crime Is Spiking on BART

Rampant Fare Evasion Big Part Of The Problem

Matt Bigler
June 25, 2019 - 12:00 am

A new report confirms what many BART commuters have been experiencing: crime is spiking on the transit system. Over the past four years robberies are up 128%, from 153 in 2014 to 349 last year. Aggravated assaults jumped 83%, from 71 to 130.

BART Interim Police Chief Ed Alvarez recently told KCBS Radio that commuters need to guard against crimes of opportunity.

"There's a lot of snatch and grabs, where people are standing by the doors just not looking and somebody comes up behind them and grabs their phone or an iPad or whatever they have and just runs off the trains," said Alvarez.

The spike in crime appears to be related to rampant fare evasion, which is worse than BART officials have estimated. According to an Alameda County grand jury report,  roughly 15% of riders do not pay compared to BART's estimate of 5%.

Those transit cheats cost the agency an estimated $80 million a year.

Related: To Stop Fare Evaders, Redesigned Gates Could Come To BART Stations

BART Board President Bevan Dufty told KCBS Radio that fare cheating has become an unfortunate part of the culture on the train system that afflicts passengers with the means to pay to ride.

"We had a physician one time who when he was cited said he hadn't paid a fare in 20 years," said Dufty. "And in fact if you can believe it he turned around and filed a complaint against the officer that cited him because he was late for a consultation."

Dufty said the agency is working to harden fare gates and hire more police officers, but he is calling out counties and cities for not doing enough to house the homeless who often end up on BART.

"It's one thing for us to help fund a homeless outreach team, but you've got to get these people shelter, you've got to put them in a navigation center you've got to help move some of these individuals or get them mental health services," he said. 

The report from the Alameda County civil grand jury will be heard by the full BART board.