Powell BART station

Last fall, one student explained how a BART station in San Francisco’s busy shopping and commercial district can harbor irritating crimes that are almost impossible to eradicate:

By Ingrid Mera

            Traveling to San Francisco by train might seem convenient, but ironically, it might actually prove to be an uncomfortable experience as you step onto the unsanitary Powell BART Station platform.

This BART station is a prime example of San Francisco’s growing homeless population. Although most aren’t dangerous, they tend to draw attention–especially from people not accustomed to seeing people sleeping on benches or on the filthy floors.

“I get some may not be in the right mind, however it can be frightening for young kids to see things like this,” said Valentina Barbalindardo.

The latest incident is a typical example of the recurring problem of the fear these individuals cause at the BART station. Barbalindardo commuted from Livermore to meet a friend at the BART station to go shopping in the city. Accompanied by her 1-year-old son, she described the scene to be disturbing.

Around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, three officers surrounded a man who was standing—with his pants down—in the corner of the Powell station. The man shouted that he was doing no wrong. Meanwhile, people walking up the stairs to exit the station were staring. The officers told the half-naked man to pull his pants up. Still the man yelled at gawkers to quit staring. The man began walking away from officers, but two of them handcuffed him and tried taking him away.

As they escorted him up toward the Market Street exit, the officers explained to the man that having his pants down in public amounted to public indecency.

In November 2012, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 on a ban on public nudity. The ban was in response to complaints from residents and business owners. Public nudity is subject to a series of fines. A third citation could result in a fine or misdemeanor and up to one year in jail.

The Powell BART station is located a few feet from the Westfield San Francisco Centre, which is home to several businesses including Starbucks, which sits inside the BART station.

“It’s an everyday thing,” described a Starbucks employee, who declined to give her name. “We just had another individual come in and yell with his pants down the other day.”

BART police describe these incidents as common as the weather begins to get cold in San Francisco, and many homeless individuals come to BART stations for shelter.

Although it may seem necessary, police make arrests only if an incident is offensive because public nudity is legal under state law.

Meanwhile, debates on public nudity continue in San Francisco.

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