Update: BART Still Beefing Up Patrols Weeks After Mass Robbery Incident

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Outside BART's Lafayette Station.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Update, 5 p.m. Friday, May 12:

BART police say they are still sending beefed-up patrols to Fruitvale, Coliseum, San Leandro and Bay Fair stations almost three weeks after a group of 50 or so teenagers robbed passengers on a train at Coliseum Station on April 22.

The Saturday night incident punctuated a period of increased crime on BART. From January to March, crime rates in the system jumped 22 percent compared to the year before.

BART police say they had already increased patrols in Oakland starting mid-March, before the robbery.

After the incident, the department instituted what it calls "emergency staffing" -- all BART police are required to work an extra day each week.

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A Dublin family attacked on the train is seeking $3 million from BART. Their attorney, Paul Justi, says the agency "was grossly negligent in failing to ensure the safety of the passengers."

Justi says that the youths pounded on the doors and windows of the train before the operator allowed them to board. He also says that better communication with the Oakland Police Department could have prevented the incident.

A BART spokesperson said that since the robbery, the transit system's police department has been working to improve coordination with other agencies, including OPD.

Police have arrested two teens suspected in the robbery.

Update, 7:45 p.m. Friday, April 28:

BART police say they've made their first arrest in connection with last weekend's mass robbery at Oakland's Coliseum Station.

The agency, which reported earlier this week that it had used video from a train car and the station to identify "multiple suspects" and obtain arrest warrants, said officers took a male juvenile into custody on robbery charges early Friday afternoon.

The East Bay Times quoted BART's acting police chief, Jeffrey Jennings, as saying the suspect is a student at San Leandro High School.

Police say the incident, which occurred about 9:30 p.m. last Saturday, involved dozens of teenagers who jumped fare gates and barged onto a train that had just arrived at the platform. BART has said seven people were robbed and at least two passengers were beaten.

"We've never had anything of this scale," Jennings said in answer to questions from BART board member Lateefah Simon at a Thursday night meeting. "We've had several independent [incidents] of two to five to 12 -- nothing this large."

Jennings added that the crowd of juveniles, which BART says included both males and females, had been at a party in East Oakland that had been broken up by gunfire. He said not all of the crowd of youths present during the incident were involved in the robberies and assaults captured on video.

"No -- not 50 of these kids were committing burglaries and robberies at that time," Jennings said. "There was a group that were, and there was a group that were watching. ... The vast majority of kids -- they fare-evaded and they're watching, probably to call out when the police got there."

Jennings told the board that the incident came amid a 22 percent increase in crime in the first quarter of 2017, as compared to the same period a year earlier. That spike had already prompted BART police to increase officer overtime and focus "crime suppression" efforts on areas in San Francisco, Oakland and Pittsburg, Jennings said.

More recently, the department's attention had moved to the Fruitvale, Coliseum, San Leandro and Bay Fair stations "due to an increase in juvenile activity," Jennings said.

He added that since March 11, BART police had arrested 19 people ages 12 to 21 "working in concerted groups of two or more up to five to seven" -- groups he suggested were involved in strong-arm robberies similar to those of last Saturday.


Terence McCarty, BART's acting deputy chief, told KQED on Friday that the department will institute emergency staffing in response to the increase in crime. That means all of BART's 175 or so officers -- about 30 fewer than the department's authorized strength -- will be required to work overtime -- an extra day each week.

Update, 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, April 26:

BART police say they've identified "multiple suspects" in last weekend's mass robbery aboard a train in Oakland -- IDs the agency says were made possible by video from cameras aboard one of the train's nine cars.

Terence McCarty, acting deputy chief for the BART Police Department, said surveillance video recorded at the Coliseum station's fare gates, on the platform and aboard a train car showed 45 to 50 youths were involved in the incident.

Seven passengers were robbed and at least two were also beaten and required medical attention in an episode McCarty said took a total of four minutes. He said BART police arrived at the station within three minutes of receiving the first report that a robbery had occurred. By that time, he said, the suspects had already fled the station.

BART's midday Wednesday statement on the investigation did not say exactly how many suspects have been identified.

"Because the investigation's ongoing, I'm not at liberty to say how many" suspects have been identified, McCarty said. "But we're pleased so far with the ones we've been able to identify and we expect to identify more."

BART said police are seeking arrest warrants and that investigators from partner agencies, including the Oakland police, have helped in identifying suspect.

BART began installing cameras on its train cars after a murder aboard a train at the West Oakland Station in January 2016. After the killing, it came to light that trains had been fitted previously with mostly camera decoys, not working cameras.

The agency says it will finish installing cameras on its entire fleet by July 1.

Original post, Monday, April 24: BART police and investigators from several other agencies are trying to identify those involved in a Saturday night incident in which 40 to 60 youths took over a train car at Oakland's Coliseum Station and robbed and beat passengers.

The initial BART police summary of the incident -- reported at 9:26 p.m. -- says dozens of juveniles jumped the gates at the station, dashed upstairs to the platform and rushed onto at least one car of a train headed to Dublin-Pleasanton.

Police say a total of seven passengers were the victims of strong-arm robbery. Items taken included five mobile phones, a purse and a duffel bag. Two people were beaten by the robbers and were treated by paramedics for head and facial injuries.

"A bunch of these teenagers started banging on the door," said Justine Lin, who reported losing her iPhone in the robbery. "Initially we were just kind of confused because it was very loud, a lot of commotion. I thought they were just messing around, horsing around, just being loud."

A BART train at Oakland's Coliseum station, where 40 to 60 youths took over a train car and robbed and beat passengers.
A BART train at Oakland's Coliseum Station, where 40 to 60 youths took over a train car and robbed and beat passengers. (Paul Sullivan/Flickr)

Lin, 27, who was on her way home from San Francisco, said passengers began screaming as the youths began grabbing items from people on the car.

"They started hitting passengers and stealing their stuff," Lin said. "They were really attacking one family of three. ... They were hitting the dad a lot on his neck and on his head, they were trying to grab his phone. They hit the mother -- they stole her purse and her phone."

Lin said she was not harmed when one of the attackers grabbed her phone and ran. She said the entire episode lasted 30 to 60 seconds. Police say the suspects ran from the station and dispersed into the surrounding neighborhood. No arrests were made.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the agency's investigators are enlisting other agencies to try to track down the attackers.

"We are in the process of pulling all the various surveillance images available to us and sharing them with Oakland police, Oakland Unified School police and Oakland Housing Authority to help identify them," Trost said.

She added that since the suspects are all believed to be juveniles, the images would not be released to the public.

Trost said six of the nine cars on the train had working security cameras. However, since victims could not say for sure which car they were on, police are in the process of looking at images from all six of the cars equipped with cameras.

BART is in the process of retrofitting all of its 600-plus cars with cameras, a process it says will be finished by July 1. The agency made that move after a murder last year led to the disclosure that most trains carry only "decoy" cameras -- nonfunctional boxes, with red or green lights on them, that don't record or transmit anything.

Lin -- one of the passengers victimized Saturday -- said the episode and apparent lack of security cameras on trains has left her feeling uneasy about riding BART.

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"When I do need to go downtown, to San Francisco, I will BART," Lin said. "But I'm kind of scared to now."