The transit system that serves San Francisco is under fire for refusing to release video from surveillance cameras that captured several recent train attacks by gangs of young black riders. Assault, robbery and rape are up 41 percent over last year on the vast train system known as BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit. But several recent attacks by gangs of young men has the agency under public scrutiny. One victim is suing to warn riders of the risk they face when riding BART. "Approximately 30 of them invaded our car.
In California today, a police or sheriff's department could buy a fleet of drones or a set of surveillance cameras to monitor the community its employees have sworn to protect, yet not tell anyone -- not even the local government. The secrecy, law enforcement officials argue, is crucial to the effectiveness of the technology in fighting crime. Yet it's also the main reason state lawmakers should pass a bill by Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) that would bring some badly needed transparency to the use of surveillance by state and local law enforcement agencies. Improving technology is making it steadily easier for the police to collect, analyze and warehouse data about people. For example, automated license-plate readers can keep a record of every car that passes.
The 30 million or so surveillance cameras peering into nearly every corner of American life might freak you out a bit, but you could always tell yourself that no one can access them all. Computer scientists have created a way of letting law enforcement tap any camera that isn't password protected so they can determine where to send help or how to respond to a crime. "It's a way to help people take advantage of information that's out there," says David Ebert, an electrical and computer engineer at Purdue University. The system, which is just a proof of concept, alarms privacy advocates who worry that prudent surveillance could easily lead to government overreach, or worse, unauthorized use. It relies upon two tools developed independently at Purdue.
Officials from BART, the public metro system serving California's San Francisco Bay area, have come under fire for their refusal to release crime surveillance videos, claiming such tapes will promote stereotypes and "stir up racial animosity." A BART official defended the agency's decision on Monday by saying information about criminal misconduct will be withheld at this time because of the media's "disproportionate elevation" of crimes that "unfairly affect and characterize riders of color," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The decision, however, has been roundly criticized by at last two BART board members who are calling for greater transparency on how crimes are reported within the system. Since the cameras were installed in April, a string of cell phone robberies have been reported on board the metro, according to local news outlets. Passengers depart from a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train in Oakland, California.