A recent spike in crime on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system –including the brutal killing of an 18-year-old girl and two other slayings — has motivated a group of men to take it upon themselves to provide security.
The group’s formation comes after three people died in unrelated attacks at BART stations in the span of just one week. In one of the attacks, 18-year-old Nia Wilson was stabbed to death while her 26-year-old sister, Lahtifa Wilson, was also injured.
For two hours each day, the group of men carry “safety escort” signs and walk commuters to their vehicles in parking lots near the train stations.
“If they say ‘No,’ we just move on to the next passenger,” the group’s organizer, Rodney Alamo Brown, told KTVU. “We don’t want to press anyone. If they want the service they are more than welcome to have it. If not then we just keep going.”
Brown said the effort is purely voluntary and no members are getting paid. Instead, members see it as a way to help out the community after Wilson’s shocking murder.
“We came out with a contingent of brothers who wanted to make sure that the riders were truly safe,” he said. “In the wake of Miss Nia, we are definitely doing it on behalf of her.”
Due to BART’s contract with its police department, the only people currently allowed to provide security at BART stations are officers, according to KTVU. But the organizers believe that anyone who is willing to help should be allowed to.
“It should take individuals within the sector of the community to say, ‘Hey, instead of complaining about it. Here’s something we can do to allow folk to feel safe,'” Brown told KTVU.
A BART spokesperson told the television station it wasn’t aware of the safety patrol, and will have officers out to explain the transit system’s security process.
“It’s great hearing that the citizens want to help and stand up and do something to help people feel safe at BART, but obviously we want to make sure there’s a partnership in place. So people know that those people are someone you can trust,” BART Spokeswoman Alicia Trost told KTVU.
Brown’s group members say they’re hoping to work with BART, not against it, to make passengers feel safer.
The suspect in the attack on Wilson, 27-year-old John Cowell, was arrested last Monday on a BART train about a dozen miles from where Wilson was killed.
Authorities haven’t released a motive for the attack, but Cowell’s family told KRON-TV in a statement that he has suffered from mental illness “most of his life.”
Fox News’ Kathleen Joyce contributed to this report.