In response to a recent BART incident that involved 60 teenagers rushing onto an Oakland Coliseum BART train with the intention of stealing from passengers, one might be wondering what to do if you feel unsafe using public transportation.
While searching for answers, San Joaquin Delta College Police Officer/Acting Sergeant, Jim Bock, provided tips and tricks for public transit passengers, whether on BART, RTD, Bus, Muni, Uber or Lyft.
With theft being the most common crime issue on public transportation, it can happen regardless of whether you are currently on the vehicle or not.
“By far, the most common crime that occurs on public transportation is petty theft. Many of these crimes happen at the stations, and not on the actual trains, or buses,” said Bock.
As for why incidences involving theft happen so regularly, Bock said some of the issue may be attributed to the passing of Propositon 47.
“When Prop 47 passed, it significantly reduced the seriousness of property crimes and limited what a person could be arrested for, if they commit property crimes. Since its passage, numerous cities throughout California have reported seeing significant spikes in property crimes. Whether this is the case, or not, it is more important than ever for everyone to be alert to their surroundings and keep their property out of sight,” said Bock.
Tips for BART, Buses, RTD and Muni
- Plan your trip ahead of time. Have your exact fare ready before you leave your home, office or a store. This way you won’t have to fumble for your money at the fare box or display extra cash.
- Advise a family member, friend or co-worker of your travel route and time and all them when you arrive safely.
- While waiting for public transportation, stay near the attendant’s stand or in a well-lighted area.
- Find a seat on the aisle if possible. This allows you to observe everything around you and to avoid getting “boxed in” against the window.
- Keep your purse, shopping bag, backpack, packages or other belongings in your lap, on your arm or between your feet. Do not leave them on an empty seat.
- Sit near the driver or operator. There are usually cameras located near them which could help deter would-be criminals.
- Avoid sitting right next to the door. Thieves may try to snatch jewelry or personal belongings from people near the door and exit quickly.
- Avoid displaying expensive-looking watches, rings, necklaces or other jewelry. Don’t invite trouble.
- Don’t doze off or become too engrossed in a book, or your smart device. It can make you an easy target.
- Be wary of noisy passengers arguing or causing a commotion. This could be staged to distract you while others are trying to steal your valuables.
Tips for Uber or Lyft
- Follow your intuition. If you ever feel unsafe, politely ask the driver to pull over and let you out.
- If you feel that you are in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.
- Once your ride has been ordered, wait in a well-lit and safe area. Since the apps notify you when the driver is arriving, there is no need to compromise your personal safety while waiting.
- Make use of the time you are waiting and notify a friend or family member of your trip details.
- When a car pulls up, don’t assume it is your ride. Before entering the car, verify the identity of the driver and their car.
- Sit in the backseat and don’t provide personal information to the driver.
Although public transportation may have its occasional drawbacks when it comes to safety, it is still the safest choice over traveling in a car.
“Public transportation, even in the most notoriously dangerous cities is safe. Yes, crime is there and it will occur. However, when compared to the crime rates of the cities in which they operate, the vast majority of public transportation systems are statistically safer. In addition, it is much safer to ride public transportation than it is to drive your car,” said Bock.
From a 2014 study, published in Street Blog USA, cited by Jim Bock, it has been statistically proven public transportation is safer than automobiles:
- Riding a bus is 60 times safer than driving a car
- Riding a metro, or light rail is 30 times safer than driving a car
- Riding a commuter, or intercity train is 20 times safer than driving a car
While there are a lot of important safety precautions to take, no matter where you are.
“It can never be said enough. Whether riding a train, bus or walking to and from class, you are in charge of your personal safety. At its most elementary stage, personal safety can be something as simple as unplugging your headphones, keeping your smartphone stashed and recognizing the people around you. Criminals thrive on opportunity. If we give them the opportunity, they will take it,” said Bock.