Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the transportation authority serving San Francisco, has instituted a new crisis intervention program to prevent security incidents inside trains and stations. 

Crisis Intervention Specialists are unarmed BART Police Department (BPD) employees who have a background in social services. Their mission is to proactively ride trains and walk platforms to respond to reports of people in the BART system who are experiencing a crisis with mental health, a lack of housing or drug issues and connect them with services.

BART aims to reduce incidents inside trains and stations related to this vulnerable population and respond to calls for welfare checks with the CIS teams. In November, CIS teams made 208 contacts across the BART system, which resulted in 35 referrals to support services.

For Yolanda Barbosa and Natalie Robinson, two BART Crisis Intervention Specialists, maintaining safety on BART trains and in stations is all about building relationships with the people they assist. “There’s a lot of refusal,” said Robinson. “There’s a lot of people who aren’t ready for help and we just have to be patient. I don’t want to say persistent, but you want to be consistent and always be there for them whenever they need it and just show that you’re going to constantly show up. And eventually that will lead to some trust building and reaching out. They see you’re actually going to be there, so they reach out.”

Barbosa says even though the CIS program is new, she thinks it’ll make a big difference. “I think our presence, showing up, talking to them every day, I think we’re going to save a lot of lives," said Barbosa. "Especially with the substance abuse users — just linking them to services and checking on them. Knowing that they’re not out here alone, the team is here for them.”

BPD ultimately hopes to have 20 Crisis Intervention Specialists deployed across the system. Crisis Intervention Specialists and Transit Ambassadors are at the forefront of BART’s efforts to increase the visible presence of safety personnel in the system using unarmed, specially trained BPD staff.