BART board OKs policy governing use of license plate readers at station lots

Decision on system-wide implementation of camera technology still to come

The BART Board of Directors approved a policy Thursday to govern the installation and use of cameras that can capture images of vehicle license plates at the transit system's parking lots and garages.

The board at its meeting in Oakland voted unanimously to approve the policy that, in the wake of BART's aborted previous attempt in 2016, seeks to balance security improvements with privacy protections.

"This has been a long time coming. In fact it's been too long," BART Director John McPartland said. "It's long overdue."

The approved policy states that the cameras will operate 24 hours a day and will be used "for BART criminal investigations and to monitor activity to protect against harm to persons and property."

"The security of our patrons and riders is our top priority," Director Debora Allen said.

The board was presented with BART crime statistics showing car break-ins and vehicle thefts, along with catalytic converter thefts, amounted to an estimated $7 million in losses to BART riders in 2017 and 2018.

License plate readers have been shown to lead to the recovery of half of all vehicles stolen from areas that have implemented the technology, BART's manager of security programs Mimi Bolaffi told the board.

In addition to helping with the recovery of stolen property, the technology will serve as a crime deterrent, Bolaffi said.

It will "put criminals on notice that if they come into our (parking) lots, their vehicles will be identified," said Bolaffi, who also noted that BART has received "very positive" feedback from the public about the potential use of the technology.

Still, skeptics of this type of "mass surveillance" technology point out that it can lead to intrusions into law-abiding riders' privacy, as well as civil rights abuses.

"You should be thinking not about whether or how this will work, but whether you want to do this at all," said J.P. Massar, a member of Oakland Privacy, an advocacy group.

Another member of Oakland Privacy, Mike Katz-Lacabe, praised the board for engaging in an open and public process when drafting the new policy and for taking privacy concerns to heart, which it failed to do when initially installing license plate readers at the MacArthur BART station in 2016.

"I'm not a fan of the mass-surveillance part of this, but we're trying to be realistic," Katz-Lacabe said.

Also, while the policy specifically states that information collected by the cameras won't be shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "or any agency conducting immigration enforcement or removal operations," it's unclear how much power BART will have to prevent other agencies from accessing the data.

That's partly why Katz-Lacabe said it was a "huge deal" that the new policy prevents the license plate information from being stored for longer than 30 days -- barring a subpoena, court order or ongoing investigation.

The BART board vote doesn't mean that cameras will be cropping up all over the system immediately.

The four cameras BART initially installed at the MacArthur parking lot will be placed at a yet-to-be-determined station as part of a pilot program that will last for several months. The board will then have to hold another vote to approve a system-wide implementation of the technology.

BART officials estimated that it will cost between $15,000 to $22,000 to install each fixed-location camera. The policy also envisions the use of cameras mounted on police vehicles and carried by officers, but no cost estimate for those cameras was provided.

— Bay City News Service

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


5 people like this
Posted by BARTD If their lips are moving....
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2019 at 10:07 am

If their lips are moving....
They are lying.

Almost every "pledge" BARTD has ever made has been false:
A seat for every rider,
No Straps for strap hangers
Dependable, Clean - who were they kidding?
Comfortable seats, now hard plastic
Quiet, now rugs replaces with linoleum
Free Parking - Now they build housing on land they took for parking lots.

I agree that they need to better patrol the lots,
Hope they actually use it to catch the bad guys.
but wonder if they can be trusted with our information?

1 person likes this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 30, 2019 at 6:10 pm

Flightops is a registered user.

Would be a lot cheaper to just put fake cameras in like they did on the Bart cars! When are they going to fix those fare gates to keep the fare evaders out, everybody pays or nobody pays, tired of hearing about all the money BART is losing because of fare evaders!

1 person likes this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 30, 2019 at 11:06 pm

How about kicking transients off the train.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Dublin leaders position the city to develop a downtown
By Tim Hunt | 5 comments | 1,254 views

Premarital and Couples: What feeling is not allowed, and what do you use in its place?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 802 views