by Rebecca Cohen
When the Chronicle criticized BART in April for failing to alert the public about a mob of 40-plus teens who stormed a train and robbed passengers at Coliseum Station, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost told reporters that if they had been paying attention, they could have found an incident report in the transit agency's daily police log the previous Sunday. But after journalists started paying attention to those logs, BART stopped providing them. Now, in the wake of two more teen mob attacks, the Chronicle and other local media outlets say BART needs to stop concealing and/or downplaying its crime problem.
Until a month ago, BART emailed daily crime briefings to reporters who signed up for the digests. But incidents like last Friday's violent robbery, in which another dozen teens at Coliseum Station stole a woman's iPhone and beat a man who intervened and snatched back the phone, are now recorded with minimal detail on the website CrimeMapping.com. The Chron argues this week that the lack of police announcements and public warnings makes it tough for riders to defend themselves or help catch the attackers.
East Bay Times columnist Scott Herhold notes that the agency has refused to release surveillance videos of either Coliseum Station incident on the grounds that the suspects are minors a rationale he calls wholly unconvincing given that other police departments regularly release footage that shows underage suspects (though many policy experts recommend withholding law enforcement footage of minors due to privacy concerns). In the April attack, only six of the train's nine cars even had working surveillance systems, though BART finished replacing its broken and dummy cameras with working ones at the beginning of July.
Herhold also argues that by failing to keep the public informed of all the crime that's been happening on the BART system, they're allowing riders to feel more complacent and less vigilant for instance about pulling their cellphones out on busy trains therefore leading to more crime.
Of course, BART isn't exactly known for the speediness of its response to calls for greater public safety measures. The Chronicle also reports that Lateefah Simon, who joined BART's board of directors last year, happened to be in Coliseum Station during last Friday's robbery, which might just light a fire under the agency. Though Simon didn't witness much of the crime just a woman shouting "hey, hey, hey" as a group of youths ran away from her she said the encounter made her concerned about how BART is keeping its riders informed.
And if Simon's experience doesn't motivate the agency to be more transparent about criminal incidents, maybe the $3 million negligence lawsuit against BART by victims of the April attack will.