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BART Police Chief Retires With Rider Safety Concerns On The Rise

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- After two years on the job, BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas retired after working his last day on the job was Monday.

His retirement comes at a tough time for the transit agency with many passengers expressing concerns about whether they're safe riding the BART system.

Rojas said his proudest achievement as chief was his implementation of a fare inspection program designed to catch fare cheats. As part of the program, inspectors cite riders who cannot show proof of fare payment. Rojas said the jury is still out on whether the program is working and admitted there simply are not enough fare inspectors.

"At the end of the day, you have a very large system which spans four counties, soon to be five, and we currently have 16 fare inspectors that are budgeted for the entire system," he said. "But I think it's a good start."

In two years on the job, Rojas' tenure bore mixed results. In one weekend last year, there were three homicides, including the murder of Nia Wilson. 2018 also saw a spike in violent crime on BART, especially cell phone thefts. Rojas said he believes his department made progress on violent crime,

"But I think there's more progress to be made and a lot of that is tied into our ability to better staff the BART police department," he pointed out.

Rojas did have success in adding more officers to the department. With him at the helm, the number of officer vacancies dropped 50 percent. He set a goal of adding 15 new officers each fiscal year for the next five years.

But BART riders who spoke to KPIX 5 at MacArthur station, where Nia Wilson was murdered, said Rojas' changes have not made the trains safer.

"I mean it's not safe," said Jalissa Williams, who refuses to catch BART after dark alone. "I saw someone try to push someone onto the tracks once," she added.

Williams said she would like BART stations to have additional lighting.

Rider Milton Waters said he wants BART to tackle the homeless problem.  Other riders said they would like to see at least one officer at each station at all times.

"Frankly, the only time I see BART police, they're are hanging out, shooting the breeze in the parking lot," said Waters.

Rojas said he hopes to spend more time with his family in southern California in retirement and he has plans to travel and continue running marathons.

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