Officials of California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) are now refusing to release surveillance videos of criminals assaulting passengers on its trains because they claim the media is exploiting the images for ratings, saying that they “create a racial bias.”
According to an announcement issued by BART last week, it will cease putting out press releases notifying the public about crimes taking place on its transit system. Now, CrimeMapping.com will receive information about the incidents.
“Disproportionate elevation of crimes on transit interfaces with local media in such a way to unfairly affect and characterize riders of color, leading to sweeping generalizations in media reports and a high level of racially insensitive commentary directed toward the District through our social-media channels, email and call centers,” BART Assistant General Manager Kerry Hamill stated, according to WND.
Criminals before passengers
Putting criminal’s reputations above passengers’ safety, BART will no longer put the public on alert to be on the lookout for criminals who could likely attack and steal from its patrons – again.
“Recent incidents of onboard violence have attracted media attention, with reports of passengers’ phones and other property being taken and some passengers being beaten,” WND reported. “Most incidents have been linked to the Coliseum station in Oakland.”
Incidents taking place around the home of Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s – and the former home of the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders – are rife, but BART still wants to diminish efforts to apprehend the criminals out of fear so-called racism.
“A woman had her phone snatched June 30 in a swarming attack by ‘about a dozen teenagers,’ who got off the train at the Coliseum stop,” the report continued. “Two days before, four teens took a cellphone from a passenger they attacked at the Dublin station. On April 22, 40–60 teens boarded the train at the Coliseum station and robbed seven passengers and beat up two. Despite BART having installed surveillance cameras on all its train cars, it is refusing to release video of these attacks.”
Disagreeing with the move to withhold surveillance video, Debora Allen, who serves on BART’s board of directors, insists that this is a safety issue – not a civil rights issue.
“I don’t understand what role the color of one’s skin plays in this issue [of whether to divulge information],” Allen emailed Hamill, according to WND. “Can you explain?”
Playing the race card, Hamill replied that the surveillance videos were just being exploited to boost TV ratings – not mentioning how the televised recording could help apprehend the criminals.
“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,” Hamill rationalized, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
She attempted to justify not taking precautions to ensure passenger safety by blaming the media of taking advantage of the videos to spike ratings.
“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,” Hamill added, the Beacon reported. “They know that video of these events will drive clicks to their websites and viewers to their programs, because people are motivated by fear.”
After the June 30 robbery, Hamill made BART’s new policy public, insisting that a voicemail left for the transit system – as well as disturbing social media postings – spurred her decision to no longer release surveillance videos. She went as far as to say that the Coliseum’s April robbery was “startling in the level of racial profiling it prompted.”
"The general manager got a call about the incident on her voicemail that used racist and incendiary language that made my mouth drop,” Hamill wrote, according Fox News’ account from The Mercury News. “Many posts used patently offensive language that often involved racial slurs (no news articles ever referenced the race of the offenders yet some members of the public leapt [sic] to their own conclusions)."
It was reported that BART completed the installation of surveillance cameras on all of its trains on June 30 – the same day it announced it would no longer release its surveillance videos to the media.
As one of the passengers who was robbed and beaten in April by the mob, Rusty Stapp is suing BART for $1 million – alleging that the transit system was negligent by not setting up adequate security measures to protect its patrons.
“My family and I are still going through it,” Stapp told KRON News late last month. “It resets how you can interact in public. We have trouble going out in crowded places and crowded streets. They’ve never released the video of the night of our attack, and not releasing the video this week, I think, just proves they’re more worried about what the public outcry would be on an incident like that than actually catching the criminals. The only thing you can hope is the cameras provide evidence so that you can go and convict some people so that it doesn’t happen again.”
BART Spokesman Taylor Huckaby gave another account – different than Hamill’s -- as to why surveillance videos were no longer being released. He originally told KPIX News that BART was just observing California’s law protecting “juvenile police records,” insisting that an active investigation into the criminal activity was underway, which precluded BART from releasing the video – even though one of the suspected criminals was a 19-year-old adult. He went on to insist that even if the juveniles’ faces were blurred, the videos would only produce “pointless gawking.”
The latter part of Huckaby’s reasoning for withholding the videos mirrored that of Hamill.
“[The public can be informed about crimes on BART] without being shown images that will inflame some members of the public and paint the transit agency in a poor and ultimately misleading light,” Hamill contended.
Allen believes this kind of rationale is nonsense – especially with the safety of passengers on the line.
“What is the priority of BART?” Allen asked Hamill. “Is the safety of the passenger – of all passengers – is that a lesser priority than the race-bias issue?”
Agreeing with Allen, the head of the board’s Operations, Safety and Workforce Committee, BART Director Joel Keller, asserted that he is strongly opposed to BART’s so-called justification for refusing to release crucial public safety information to protect its patrons.
Allen stressed to KCBS-TV that all security precautions should be taken to protect vulnerable passengers – who have no means to escape an attack.
"This is BART,” Allen impressed to the station, according to Fox News. “People are sort of trapped in this train for a while, and they have a right to see what could potentially happen."