An increase in property crimes led to a unanimous vote on the part of the Bay Area Rapid Transit board to install four license plate readers in select parking lots and structures.
(TNS) — Bay Area Rapid Transit plans to begin putting license-plate-reading cameras in its parking lots and structures, after the agency’s board approved a controversial measure Thursday intended to combat crime.
Since 2017, the system has seen an annual average of 1,054 auto burglaries, 387 cars stolen and 125 thefts of catalytic converters. Those numbers prompted the board to vote unanimously for a surveillance policy that allows BART to install four cameras that it owns and later pursue a contract for more.
“This really needs to get done and it’s long overdue,” said Director John McPartland.
Like several of his colleagues, he feared that rising crime has eroded riders’ trust in the system.
At that time the board decided not to use the equipment until they had approved a surveillance policy. The one they settled on last year requires hearings and new guidelines every time the transit agency purchases a new piece of technology.
So Thursday, the board passed guidelines for four license-plate readers that BART owns. Staff will test those readers in a parking lot and gather data so the board can assess their success in a few months.
The guidelines ban NCRIC from sharing information with ICE or any agency conducting immigration enforcement. They allow the center to store data for up to 30 days unless it’s part of an ongoing criminal investigation, in which case it may be retained for a year.
Officials at the transit agency hope that license-plate readers will help patrons recover stolen property, which amounts to more than $7 million annually. BART may at some point expand the function of the plate-reading cameras, which could also be used to collect parking fees or validate permits.
Yet on Thursday the directors mostly focused on restoring riders’ confidence.
“I want to be in a world where people get on a train and get to their destination without incident or drama,” said Director Debora Allen. “It’s time for us to move forward and get this done.”
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