There won’t be “film at 11,” after all.
California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit officials are refusing to release surveillance video of assaults aboard its trains, saying to do so would “create a racial bias” and accusing the media of exploiting the images for ratings.
BART announced last week it would also no longer issue press releases about crimes on the transit system, instead submitting incidents to the website CrimeMapping.com.
“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,” assistant general manager Kerry Hamill said.
Recent incidents of onboard violence have attracted media attention, with reports of passengers’ phones and other property being taken and some passengers being beaten. Most incidents have been linked to the Coliseum station in Oakland.
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. 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 – a decision criticized by BART board of directors member, Debora Allen.
Allen emailed 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 replied: “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.”
Colin Flaherty’s book, “Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry: The Hoax of Black Victimization and Those Who Enable It,” documents black crime in America and exposes how the media and politicians are willing partners in what the author calls “the greatest lie of our generation.”
Hamill announced the new policy following the June 30 robbery, saying the incident resulted in a voicemail to the agency filled with “racist and incendiary language” and messages on social media that used “patently offensive language that often involved racial slurs.” She further justified the news blackout by calling the robbery a “petty crime” that would make BART look “crime ridden” and “unfairly affect and characterize riders of color, leading to sweeping generalizations in media reports.”
Ironically, June 30 was the day BART completed installation of surveillance cameras on all its trains.
Rusty Stapp is one of the passengers who was beaten and robbed by the mob in April. He has announced his intention to sue BART for $1 million for failing to ensure adequate security measures.
“My family and I are still going through it,” Stapp told KRON News two weeks ago. “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,” he said. “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.”
Intially, BART spokesman Taylor Huckaby told KPIX News the videos were not being released because there was an active investigation and because California’s law protecting “juvenile police records” prevented the agency from showing the surveillance video, despite one of the suspects arrested being a 19-year-old adult. Even if the faces of the juveniles were blurred, Huckaby said, it would be “pointless gawking” for the public to view the videos. His opinion echoed Hamill, who said 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.”
Now, BART is playing the race card to avoid being painted in a “misleading light.”
That doesn’t sit well with board of directors member Allen, who notes there’s nothing unreasonable about vulnerable passengers being frightened.
“This is BART, people are sort of trapped in this train for awhile and they have a right to see what could potentially happen,” she wrote Hamill. “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 MEMO (FULL TEXT)
TO: Board of Directors
DATE: July 7, 2017
FROM: Kerry Hamill
AGM Office of External Affairs
SUBJECT: Providing public access to crime data via CrimeMapping.com
The BART Police Department is now sharing reports of crimes with the website CrimeMapping.com. The site processes crime data with its advanced mapping engine to show where a crime has occurred within the BART system. The decision to provide crime data to CrimeMapping.com was made by BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas as part of an effort to increase public transparency as well as to bolster community oriented policing efforts. This decision was shared with Board members and with the media in early June, 2017.
Crime data from BART is being fed to CrimeMapping.com from our Records Management System. This new technology has increased the efficiency, accuracy and transparency of our crime reporting. BART is following the lead of several large police departments in the Bay Area that already provide their crime data to CrimeMapping.com. That list includes police departments in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Hayward, Richmond, and Berkeley. The website is used by law enforcement agencies across the country to provide localized and updated crime data to constituents to raise awareness and encourage prevention.
Previously, crime logs (in narrative form) had been manually entered and emailed to a small group of approximately 300 readers and local media. The data now is available to all members of the public, freely, on the Internet. Recent reports have criticized this move as a step away from transparency. All of our crimes are still being reported, simply not in the way reporters previously received them. Many reporters remain unfamiliar with the interface. Furthermore, it is important to note that much of the criticism leveled at BART from local media on this topic was generated for the benefit of media themselves. Reporters (based on the recent phone snatching at Coliseum) repeatedly questioned why the District did not issue a press release (or would not be issuing a press release in the future) on the topic of petty crimes.
The Media Department has criteria for whether to issue a press release, and this incident did not meet them. The robbery was thwarted by the victim’s fellow riders, then the assailants were all detained and identified thanks to a bolstered police presence at Coliseum station. No property was taken, and no injuries required medical attention.
There is no benefit to riders, criminal procedure, BART police investigations, or the District generally to elevate such an incident with a press release. To do so would be grossly out of step with other transit jurisdictions and municipal governments, and would paint an inaccurate picture of the BART system as crime-ridden when incidents of crime on transit, including BART, are fewer than in the surrounding communities. The new mapping tool presents crime in a context of what is occurring outside our stations — in the days following the recent attempted robbery, there were over 118 assaults and 33 robberies in the immediate area. All of these incidents were ignored by local media.
Furthermore, 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. The BART Police Department has a hard copy of all the data provided to CrimeMapping.com. It is available to the public at its Lake Merritt Station headquarters. Many police agencies, according to the Police Chief, provide written versions of their police logs for public review at their offices as standard practice.
Users can access the information by going to the CrimeMapping.com website and entering a station name in the search box. The information about specific crimes at that station will be displayed on a map along with crimes that have occurred in the surrounding neighborhood if that local jurisdiction participates in the CrimeMapping system. Users can look up the time and type of crime that occurred, and organize the map by agency, e.g., if you only want to see crimes that occurred on BART, you can turn off icons for crimes that occurred under other departments’ jurisdictions. CrimeMapping.com stores the data for up to 180 days.
The site can also display crime data in charts and graphs, illustrating whether there has been a recent spike or decline in criminal activity. TriTech Software Systems, the parent company behind crimemapping.com, is one of the largest vendors for tier-one public-safety software systems in the nation. As part of our Regional Anti-Terrorism Law Enforcement Systems (RAILS) project, we have implanted the entire TriTech Software Systems Inform suite, which includes: computer-aided dispatch, in-car mobile software, web-based records management system, IQ analytics, and crime analytics software (known as CrimeView). This has allowed us to capture and analyze data to help determine how to best deploy our resources in the field.
BART data has been live on the CrimeMapping.com site since early June. The Office of External Affairs continues to respond well within 24 hours to media inquiries requesting detail or commentary on any crime reported on the website, and continues to work with the BART Police Department to develop best practices for reporting on crime.
If you have any further questions, please contact me at 510 464-6153 or Chief Carlos Rojas at 510 464-7022.
Assistant General Manager
Office of External Affairs