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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