San Francisco: The liberals you have elected sure do care about you…
In the last three months, there have been at least three robberies on BART involving groups of teenagers.
“I think people are genuinely concerned — they are fearful about the stories that have come out about the recent attacks, the assaults, the thefts,” said Debora Allen, who is a member of the BART Board of Directors.
Allen told us the agency issued an explanation for why it is being tight-lipped about the thefts.
“To release these videos would create a high level of racially insensitive commentary toward the district,” she was told. “And in addition it would create a racial bias in the riders against minorities on the trains.”
According to a memo distributed to BART Directors, the agency won’t do a press release on the June 30 theft because it was a “petty crime” that would make BART look “crime ridden.” Furthermore, it would “unfairly affect and characterize riders of color, leading to sweeping generalizations in media reports.”
The memo was from BART Assistant General Manager Kerry Hamill.
Allen emailed Hamill, “I don’t understand what role the color of one’s skin plays in this issue [of whether to divulge information]. Can you explain?” Hamill responded, “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.” And added her opinion of the media: “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. They know that video of these events will drive clicks to their websites and viewers to their programs because people are motivated by fear.”
Allen says scared passengers aren’t being unreasonable — being on a BART train is a vulnerable position.
“This is BART, people are sort of trapped in this train for awhile and they have a right to see what could potentially happen.”
She says all this raises questions, “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?
Here’s the Details of One of the “Incidents”…
Witnesses told police that 40 to 60 juveniles flooded the station, jumped the fare gates and rushed to the second-story train platform. Some of the robbers apparently held open the doors of a Dublin-bound train car while others streamed inside, confronting and robbing and in some cases beating riders.
A police summary prepared after the incident said that at least two victims suffered injuries to the face or head that required medical attention.
The attack was so quick, police reported, that the teenagers were able to retreat from the station and vanish into the surrounding East Oakland neighborhood before BART officers could respond. The train was held for about 15 minutes as authorities interviewed victims and witnesses and tended to the injured.
Trost said police arrived at the station in less than 5 minutes, but that the robberies took place in just seconds.
BART police had increased the number of officers patrolling Oakland stations Saturday night because of a recent rise in the number of police calls. A BART police sergeant and an officer were in the station’s back parking lot on patrol when the station was stormed, Trost said. They were the first to arrive at the concourse after the crime was reported.
“This was obviously a terrible event and I’m sure very scary for the victims and the BART employees involved,” she said. “We’re looking at it very closely to see how we can respond to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Director Robert Raburn, whose district includes Coliseum Station, said he was “very disturbed that such an aggressive action would put BART passengers and employees at risk. It cannot occur with impunity.”
Six of the nine cars on the train had working surveillance cameras, and BART police were viewing video from those cars as well as station cameras, Trost said. Since many victims and witnesses were unsure which car they were on, and didn’t know if the swarm had entered other cars, BART police are reviewing video from all working cameras. All BART trains are scheduled to be equipped with working cameras by the end of June.
“We are in the process of pulling all surveillance video, and we will share with Oakland police, Oakland Unified School District and Oakland Housing Authority to see if they can help identify the minors,” Trost said. “We have had success with sharing images of juveniles with this group and identifying and making arrests in the past.”
Trost said Oakland police have told their BART counterparts that other incidents involving large groups of teens took place in the general area Saturday night. Oakland police officials declined to comment, and would offer no details Monday, referring questions to BART police.
Robberies committed by small groups of people who snatch valuables from riders when trains stop at stations then dash off just before the train departs have been known to happen on BART, Trost said. But this was the first time she was aware of a train being swarmed by a large group of teens.