Screenshot 2017-04-24 18.31.38

By Demian Bulwa and Michael Cabanatuan

BART police are beefing up patrols at Oakland stations after dozens of juveniles terrorized riders Saturday night when they invaded the Coliseum Station and commandeered a train car, forcing passengers to hand over bags and cell phones and leaving at least two with head injuries.

The incident — the first of its kind in recent memory — occurred around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses told police that 40 to 60 juveniles flooded the station, jumped the fare gates and rushed to the second-story train platform. Some of the robbers apparently held open the doors of a Dublin-bound train car while others streamed inside, confronting and robbing and in some cases beating riders.

“At least two victims suffered head/facial injuries requiring medical attention,” said a police summary prepared after the incident.

Alicia Trost, a BART spokeswoman, said Monday that seven people were robbed — with the victims losing a purse, a duffel bag and five phones. Six people were robbed inside the train car, with a seventh confronted on the platform, she said. Police received no reports of guns or other weapons being brandished.

The attack was quick, police reported, and the teenagers were able to retreat from the station and vanish into the surrounding East Oakland neighborhood before BART officers could respond. The train was held for about 15 minutes as authorities interviewed victims and witnesses and tended to the injured.

Trost said police arrived at the station in under 5 minutes, but the robberies took place in just seconds. No officers were at Coliseum station at the time, but were patrolling Oakland stations, she said.

“This was obviously a terrible event and I’m sure very scary for the victims and the BART employees involved,” said Rebecca Saltzman, president of the BART Board of Directors. “We’re looking at it very closely to see how we can respond to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Six of the nine cars on the train had working surveillance cameras and BART police were viewing video from those cars as well as station cameras, Trost said.

“We are in the process of pulling all surveillance video and we will share with Oakland police, Oakland Unified School District and Oakland Housing Authority to see if they can help identify the minors,” Trost said. “We have had success with sharing images of juveniles with this group and identifying and making arrests in the past.”

The images cannot be shared publicly, she said, because the suspects appear to be minors.

Trost said Oakland police have told their BART counterparts that other incidents involving large groups of teens took place in the general area Saturday night. Oakland police officials declined to comment, and would offer no details Monday, referring questions back to BART police.

An increase in police calls at Oakland stations had prompted BART police to increase the number of officers patrolling Saturday night, with some working on overtime, Trost said. She said she did not know if those calls involved robberies.

“We had increased presence in Oakland for the evening but we obviously can’t have an officer on every car, on every platform, at every station,” Trost said. “We have 46 stations and over 100 miles of track.”

Robberies involving small groups of people who snatch valuables from riders when trains stop at stations then dash off just before the train departs have been known to happen on BART, Trost said. But this was the first time she was aware of a train being swarmed by a large group of teens.

“We’re taking this seriously,” Saltzman said. “Things like this have happened elsewhere but not at BART.”

Last month, according to two television reports, a swarm of teenagers invaded a carnival near the Oakland Coliseum, beating workers and stealing prizes from the game booths. Robberies involving small groups invading stores and restaurants in the Bay Area are not unheard of. But incidents involving such large groups are rare.

The incident presents another challenge for BART, which hired a new police chief last week. The agency has struggled to contain fare evaders, and is in the midst of installing surveillance cameras in train carsafter The Chronicle reported that most of the existing cameras were decoys. Installation of the cameras is expected by June.

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