Issues

Bay Area Transit System Not Releasing Surveillance Videos, Fearing Racial Bias

A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which serves San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., is refusing to release surveillance videos of criminal incidents in its system for fear of spreading racial bias.

After three recent incidents of robbery on the trains, the system will not release videos of the incidents to the media, CBS SF BayArea reports.

Member of the BART Board of Directors Debora Allen said that she was told by management that the videos would not be released because they would spread racial bias among riders. But Allen stressed that riders are fearing for their safety.

"I think people are genuinely concerned—they are fearful about the stories that have come out about the recent attacks, the assaults, the thefts," Allen said. "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 management told Allen that "racial bias" caused by the videos would create insensitive rhetoric.

"To release these videos would create a high level of racially insensitive commentary toward the district," management said. "And in addition it would create a racial bias in the riders against minorities on the trains."

BART Assistant General Manager Kerry Hamill replied to Allen with a condemnation of local media.

"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 replied.

"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 continued. "They know that video of these events will drive clicks to their websites and viewers to their programs because people are motivated by fear."