The cat has been out of the bag for some time that the "majority" or even the "vast majority" of surveillance cameras onboard BART trains are decoys or otherwise inoperable. In the past BART Police chief Kenton Rainey has said, "I’m not going to go into how many of our cameras are actually videoing or not videoing" but now, in response to a public records request, the agency fesses up to the Chronicle that just 22.6 percent of cameras are operable — if you consider shooting on VHS to be effective. Replacing the roughly 77 percent that are broken or were never intended to work in the first place is going to cost $1.4 million.
The facts of the decoy system were sadly brought to light by the fatal shooting onboard a BART train on January 10th. Naturally there was no video of that crime, but, as an aside, there's now a $10,000 bounty on the alleged killer.
Once it came to light, the efficacy of the smoke and mirrors system was basically negated, and a chastened BART said it was scrambling to replace the cameras. The timing was, in no small coincidence, ahead of a planned $3 billion bond measure the agency would like for the public to approve.
“BART has committed to install a working camera system on each and every train car as quickly as possible," said a BART statement of a few weeks ago. "Staff is already working on funding options, a procurement plan, and deployment strategy."
But the expensive rush to replace the cameras now might be seen as a temporary patch. BART's new cars will arrive with streaming video surveillance camera capabilities between 2017 and 2021. Let's hope none of those are decoy trains, which I suspect BART has been running for some time now.