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Riders Are Dropping Dead On California Public Transit As Drug Crisis Escalates


Drug use on public transit systems in major California cities has surged in the past year as record numbers of riders have died due to suspected overdoses.

San Francisco is on track to see a record number of overdose deaths on its public transportation system this year, according to the San Francisco Standard. In the first three months of 2023, there have been 7 deaths on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system which is expected to surpass the 19 deaths that were reported in 2022.

The BART system in San Francisco has been sending “Progressive Policing” personnel to respond to incidents involving drug usage on the transit system, according to the San Francisco Standard. In the first three months of the year, the program saw a 5.7% success rate in connecting drug users and other individuals involved in incidents on the metro to help resources.

BART Director Debora Allen reportedly told the San Francisco Standard that she was concerned with the progressive policing system’s ability to address the issue and suggested that the priority should be enhancing measures at fare gates to prevent people from bypassing the gates without paying.

“If somebody’s doing something or someone not doing something that they shouldn’t be doing, the alternative police have no authority to intervene in that situation,” Allen told the San Francisco Standard. “If we don’t address the entrance and exit to the BART system, which happens to be in the same place, nothing is going to change.”

In Los Angeles, the most populous city in California, the public metro system saw 22 suspected drug overdose deaths on buses and trains between January and March of 2023, according to the Los Angeles Times. This number has already exceeded the number of overdose deaths on public transportation in the city that occurred in all of last year.

Crime has been trending upwards in many California cities including San Francisco, where robberies have increased by 12.2% in the last year by 7.7%, according to police department data. Businesses have shut down and fled San Francisco in large droves as surging violent crime and drug usage have impacted their ability to operate in the city.

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