Despite the fact that there have been at least three recent robberies on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which serves the San Francisco Bay area, BART refuses to release surveillance video of the incidents.
On April 22: Forty to 60 kids got on BART at the Coliseum stop and robbed seven passengers, beating up two; on June 28, four teenagers assaulted a passenger and stole a cell phone at Dublin.
And on June 30, a woman on a train with roughly a dozen teenagers was victimized by one who stole her phone before the group exited at the Coliseum stop.
According to Debora Allen, who is a member of the BART Board of Directors, BART’s rationale for its refusal to release video footage was that “to release these videos would create a high level of racially insensitive commentary toward the district. And in addition it would create a racial bias in the riders against minorities on the trains.”
Allen emailed BART Assistant General Manager Kerry Hamill, “I don’t understand what role the color of one’s skin plays in this issue [of whether to divulge information]. Can you explain?”
Hamill responded, “If we were to regularly feed the news media video of crimes on our system that involve minority suspects, particularly when they are minors, we would certainly face questions as to why we were sensationalizing relatively minor crimes and perpetuating false stereotypes in the process. … My view is that the media’s real interest in the videos of youth phone snatching incidents isn’t the desire for transparency but rather the pursuit of ratings. They know that video of these events will drive clicks to their websites and viewers to their programs because people are motivated by fear.”
Allen argued that passengers were frightened, asking, “What is the priority of BART? Is the safety of the passenger — of all passengers — is that a lesser priority than the race bias issue?”
BART spokesman Taylor Huckaby stated that state law protecting “juvenile police records” prevents them from showing the surveillance video, even though at least one of the people arrested for the April 22 attack was 19 years old.