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Are San Leandro And Bayfair BART Stations Becoming Crime Magnets?

Between lax patrols and clever crooks, I'm seeing more crime and here's what I'd like the city and BART police do about it.

 

San Leandro is no stranger to BART and AC Transit, as both mass transportation agencies have trains and buses darting across our city every hour of the day and night. As a commuter for nearly eight years now, the San Leandro and Bayfair BART stations have been integral parts of my day for a long time now, both to catch a train or hop on a bus to get to where I need to go.

However, over the past couple of years I have noticed several trends developing both at the stations and on the buses that need to see some resolution.

Both of the BART Stations have become magnets for criminal activity, regardless of time of day. It is a regular occurrence to get off at Bayfair or San Leandro Station and be solicited to buy marijuana and other illicit drugs by dealers loitering around the ticket purchasing areas and the bus stops.

Often, dealers can be seen hanging about for hours on end, with little to no visible effort being made by BART Police to question why these particular individuals are loitering, nor to move them along.

Part of the problem here is that the BART Police minimally, if at all, patrol the bus stops at either of the stations, nor the immediate areas surrounding them. They will go into the stations and hang out near the booth attendants, but will rarely go out and walk around the periphery where the bus stops are. The dealers are wise to this and thus congregate on the outskirts to avoid detection. This is also contributing to people being mugged near the BART stations, as people walking home or to their cars are easy prey when the cops are nowhere near.

Once you're actually on a bus, you still haven't escaped the problems from either of the two stations. The same guys dealing at BART sometimes make their way onto the buses and continue their soliciting. I've had people get within inches of my face in a narcotic-laced fog and ask if I wanted to buy weed, seen gang bangers get into altercations with passengers (and other gang members), and so on and so forth. Drivers have little recourse to help mediate these situations; there's really not much they can do that wouldn't potentially cause a confrontation that could get someone beaten, shot, or stabbed.

Clearly, BART Police can't be everywhere, and keeping criminals away from the BART stations and off the buses is never going to be a 100% success story. What we are seeing currently, however, is a marked increase in activities that can and should be kept to a minimum. Please don't come away from this thinking you're taking your life into your own hands riding on BART or the bus in San Leandro. All I'm trying to impart is that these activities are becoming more pronounced and frequent as the months drag by and shouldn't be overlooked until they are a chronic dilemma. It's all about perception, and the dealers and criminals lurching their way into the city are learning that San Leandro is a place you can get away with this stuff.

I think that the most important thing that needs to happen is we see the BART Police become more visible at the BART stations here in SL. The frequency of their patrols needs to go up, as well as encompass the entire station. People who are dealing and up to no good are going to be hesitant to poke their heads out if they think they're going to bump into a cop. These two stations are important hubs for out city, and keeping them as crime-free as possible needs to be a top priority.

The city might not have direct contol over the BART police, but they can certainly do more to bend the ear of the police when they aren't doing enough to keep our BART stations clean from dealers and thugs.

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David March 20, 2012 at 01:51 PM
It's obviously too much to expect BART police to do their jobs. After all, Police Sergeant Tietz only made $228k in cash comp in 2010 (never mind bennies). Walk around the station? Way too much work for that pittance. www.contracostatimes.com/salaries
Leah Hall March 20, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Thanks, Robert. I thought some might enjoy this talk by Ellen Dunham-Jones: Retrofitting Suburbia (tite of her book also) Ellen offers insight about the decline and renewal of inner-ring suburban cities, from a design perspective. The examples she sites show targeted investment of key areas of cities, sometimes bringing up the density while others "greening" it. Big parking lots are often a real problem in struggling areas, because the police are stretched and there isn't enough "eyes on the street." I completely agree with you that excellent policing and security is a key piece. http://www.ted.com/talks/ellen_dunham_jones_retrofitting_suburbia.html
Stephen Cassidy March 20, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Robert, did you obtain any statistics from BART or the SLPD on crime trends at the two stations? This Saturday, at 10 a.m. at the San Leandro BART station we are having a community meeting. Everyone is welcome to attend. From the City website: BART Boardmember Bob Franklin and City of San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy will convene a community meeting at the San Leandro BART Station, 1401 San Leandro Boulevard, on Saturday, March 24, beginning at 10:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. This follow-up meeting is a result of a joint Town Hall meeting held in November of last year. Mayor Cassidy and President Franklin will share information and gather community input regarding the San Leandro BART station. A walk through of the station will be conducted to determine what areas can be improved and how BART, the City and the community can work together to make those improvements happen. Meeting participants should gather at the BART entry gates to begin the meeting.
Robert Marrujo March 20, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I haven't; my only goal here was to pass along what I, personally, have been experiencing for a long time as a commuter in San Leandro, experiences that many others share. I think meetings like the one planned for Saturday are wonderful and a good step in the right direction. However, I find it frustrating that a meeting should be held to direct BART authorities and police to be doing things they already should be. It's like having to point out fire to a fireman. No disrespect to you personally, Mr. Mayor, but I tire of seeing BART police having to be told to go deal with criminals at the station as opposed to them doing regular patrols of the entire area and finding these indiviuals on their own.
Leah Hall March 20, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Mayor Cassidy, Thank you for the information and the coordinated community effort! This is so important and I know that community leaders, under your leadership, are working very hard to improve the safety and quality of our BART stations. Robert, your thoughtful observations and the fact that you care is invaluable. Thank you for your very timely blog. I hope you have inspired others to join us in this initiative and that you will be available to attend this follow up meeting this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the San Leandro Bart Station.
Tom Abate (Editor) March 20, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Robert, thanks for taking on this topic, and please take on more topics like it.
Tom Abate (Editor) March 20, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I deleted two comments that continue a verbal feud that adds nothing to this discussion, but I do appreciate the thoughtful remarks from all that remain on topic.
Hector Velasco March 20, 2012 at 11:53 PM
I too am concerned for our BART's safety. I started to commute everyday to school from San Leandro BART station to San Francisco recently, and a couple of of times I've already encountered individuals asking for money and trying to sell me drugs. Too many I'd say for such a short time (A couple of months). It's a problem because I know of and seen highschoolers riding BART. We don't want them having easy access to drugs. My parents are also constantly concerned for me since they have been hearing about all these crimes happening inside and around BART stations. Hopefully, I can tell them one day that they could stop worrying as much because BART and the city/cities are doing something to prevent as much crimes as possible. I am definately attending the meeting.
Ken Briggs March 21, 2012 at 12:13 AM
I see more Bart cop on the street in the bart cars than on bart . so who are all these cops . at night I see them all stop and grab a bite with the local cops at Nicks .
Leah Hall March 21, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Thank you for all you do, Tom! It's great to know that we have a thoughtful moderator and a talented journalist on our little Patch!
Ken Briggs March 21, 2012 at 02:21 AM
when is or was the First time anyone seen a unmarked bart police car ? maybe if they would get a few and patrol the parking lots they might see something . even if they would get a few bikes they might get some of these bad people .
David March 21, 2012 at 02:26 AM
I commute everyday at interesting times (first train, 4:34 am out, sometime between 2-5 pm on the way back). In the morning, there are vagrants hanging out. In the afternoon, there's often a cloud of not-tobacco smoke lingering over the entryway. I don't see actual criminal behavior besides that, but it's a perception issue (and again, not sure why we're paying BART cops $150-$250k to...well..do what exactly?).
Jamie March 21, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Yes Ken, I see them often on the streets near Bay Fair.
Fran March 21, 2012 at 12:50 PM
How are we supposed to know that if they are "unmarked"? lol
Leah Hall March 21, 2012 at 06:43 PM
My daughter and her friends, age 11, can spot an unmarked car in Whole Foods Oakland parking lot from over 50' away. I'm not sure how they figured it out but they did. It's really not very difficult. :)
Ken Briggs March 22, 2012 at 12:12 AM
maybe Bart should hire those people that patrol Bayfair parking lots go and patrol bart lots on those sigway things , while around bart , I see that the Bayfair parking lots are patroled more , than bart lots .
Angela Marrujo March 22, 2012 at 12:33 AM
They're pretty obvious a lot of the time, and using almost nothing but Crown Victorias doesn't really help them blend in when you know what kind of car to look for...
Leah Hall March 22, 2012 at 02:00 AM
That explains it! If the cops wanted to blend in at Whole Foods parking lots they would be driving "punch" buggies (aka, VW Beetles). :)
Angela Marrujo March 22, 2012 at 02:05 AM
LOL!
Ken Briggs March 22, 2012 at 02:16 AM
whats wrong with an old style V W of the 50s or a old P U and go arould the parking lots .or mopeds or just plain bikes ?
Leah Hall March 22, 2012 at 03:03 AM
You're too kind to me, Angela. My daughter isn't talking after that wisecrack... :(

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