bartpolice_generic.jpgPolice officers and their canines will be available to interact and answer riders’ burning questions at six BART stations during a crime prevention and safety National Night Out event tonight.

Since 1984, police departments and neighborhoods across the country have hosted National Night Out events, but Tuesday marks BART’s first participation in the event.

BART police spokeswoman Officer Era Jenkins said the new chief, Kenton Rainey, was aware of the event and decided that BART would participate this year.

BART stations hosting National Night Out include the Civic Center/UN Plaza, 12th Street/Oakland City Center, Hayward, North Berkeley, Concord and Millbrae stations.

Each station has prepared specialized activities to promote the event, including dance lessons and raffle giveaways.

“People love free items and so do I, so this is one of those fun times you can interact with police department, talk, and get free stuff while learning about crime prevention,” Jenkins said.

The event will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the participating stations, with a focus on BART’s top two crime problems: bicycle and electronic device theft, Jenkins said.

Jenkins said bicycle theft jumped from a total of 340 incidents in 2010 to 507 incidents in 2011.

Lt. Frank Lucarelli said 119 cellphones were reported stolen on BART between January and May of this year.

Jenkins said, “We’ll be doing a bicycle theft prevention demonstration to help people learn to properly lock up their bikes. We have bookmarks (with information) about cellphone and electronic theft, bulletins, all kinds of information.”

Two teenage boys were arrested last month on suspicion of robbing a BART rider of a cellphone in San Francisco, according to Jenkins. The boys, ages 14 and 17, were taken into custody by San Francisco police on July 18 near the Balboa Park station after allegedly taking an iPhone from a rider and fleeing, she said.

“Sometimes these things are a crime of opportunity and there are things you can do to avoid being a victim of some of these thefts,” Jenkins said.

April Short, Bay City News

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