BART officials said Monday that next week they will begin enforcing a new law that allows the transit agency to temporarily ban people who attack station agents or passengers or commit other offenses.
California Assembly Bill 716, which took effect last year, allows BART to issue a “prohibition order” against anyone who commits certain offenses on the transit district’s property, such as violence against employees or passengers, defacing property or urinating in public.
Offenders can be banned for 30 days to a year, depending on the offense.
Elsewhere: BART can begin banning unruly next week [Chron]
BART Outlines New Approach To Ban Unruly Riders From Trains [KCBS]
New “Prohibition Order” law safeguards against violent, unruly or repeat offenders [BART]
For minor infractions a person must be cited on at least three separate occasions within a period of 90 days to receive a prohibition order but for more serious crimes, such as violence against passengers or employees, the ban can take effect after the first offense.
BART police Chief Kenton Rainey said BART has waited until now to start enforcing the law because it wanted to go through “a deliberate and thoughtful process in which it received comments from community members and mental health groups at a series of public meetings.
Rainey said the transit agency also wanted to take time to make sure that their police officers received training on applying the law, including ways to work with special-needs population such as people who are homeless or are mentally ill.
Rainey said the new law is “more effective and efficient” than its current policy of going to the district attorney’s office of a particular county where an offense occurred and seeking a stay-away order.
He said getting stay-away orders can be “difficult” because BART operates in four counties and the orders aren’t always high priorities for prosecutors.
BART will follow in the footsteps of two other transit districts who already have implemented prohibition orders for three years: Sacramento Regional Transit District and Fresno Area Express.
BART Board President Tom Radulovich said the new law is “an important safety initiative to keep our employees and riders safe.”
He said, “We’re very concerned that for the past few years folks have been assaulting our station agents.”
Antonette Bryant, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 920 station agents, train operators and clerical workers at BART, said assaults against station agents have increased the past several years and the problem has gotten even worse recently.
As an example, Bryant said that in one eight-day period in March there were nine assaults against station agents.
She said she thinks many passengers have “less patience” with BART employees because they’re having a difficult time in the current economy.
Rainey said the new law contains safeguards to address concerns that the authority it grants could be misused.
He said people who receive prohibition orders can request an administrative hearing at which the hearing officer can overturn the order if the people didn’t understand the nature and extent of their actions or didn’t have the ability to control their actions.
When BART begins enforcing the new law next Monday, it can issue prohibition orders to those who meet the criteria specified in the law.
All station agents will receive information in their computers about active orders. That information will include the names and photographs of prohibited individuals.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News