Kendall Chien

BART Grants OK To Record License Plates At Parking Lots To Deter Crime

Melissa Culross
April 25, 2019 - 2:11 pm

License plate cameras soon could be coming to BART station parking lots as the transit agency is trying to cut down on car burglaries and thefts.

“Parking areas present a rich target environment for people parking their cars,” Mimi Bolaffi, manager of security programs with BART, told the board. “In particular with BART, people park at our facilities, they go to work, they’re gone for eight, nine, 10 hours.”

The transit agency is considering installing cameras to record the license plate numbers of all cars that enter station parking lots. That plate information would be compared to that of vehicles connected to crimes.

Dealing with crime in parking lots is something BART board director Lateefah Simon says is necessary.

“When I get off the BART at Richmond station, I’m glad I’ve never driven a car because when I look in that parking lot, it’s scary,” she said.

Bolaffi says the information gathered from the cameras would be held for only 30 days and wouldn't be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a move supported by advocacy groups who were concerned the information would be used to target people suspected of being in the country illegally.

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While the information will be shared with other law enforcement agencies, Bolaffi told the board not sharing it with ICE will be in the policy, as well as part of the agreement with other agencies.  

BART had come under criticism in September when it was revealed that the transit agency's police had made license plate data from the MacArthur station in Oakland available to federal immigration authorities despite the system's "sanctuary" policy.

One man who spoke to the BART board on Thursday morning asked the directors if adding the cameras is something the agency should do, as it would increase surveillance on citizens.

“No doubt you will catch a few criminals and no doubt people will feel a little safer. Maybe we will come to love Big Brother, but is that really the world we want to be in?” he said. “We may soon, and maybe we already are, living in a world where authority will be able to, or already is, tracking us through cameras on every single block as we walk.”

But the the board unanimously approved the camera policy, as BART police want to run a pilot program at one station before coming back to the board to request implementation.