How Important Is Surveillance Tech on Public Transit?

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The use of surveillance technology is changing as a big California public transit agency struggles with ongoing problems with public safety, funding, and ridership—issues that many transit agencies are dealing with.
A significant transit agency is changing the way it uses surveillance technology to add fresh cameras in various locations as a result of growing public safety concerns.
On its 131-mile track connecting 50 stations, Bay Area Rapid Transit ( BART), which runs through the San Francisco bay area, is experiencing financial difficulties and a sharp decline in ridership that has not yet returned to pre-COVID levels.The more than 50-year-old transit agency has been operating on federal funding that will expire in 2025, leaving it with a$ 300 million annual deficit.

Concerns about public safety and cleanliness were raised in a survey to find out why riders have n’t returned to the service. More than 5,000 survey respondents had either seen a crime on BART or had been the victim of one. In the meantime, 85 % of BART riders who have reduced or stopped using the system said they would use it more frequently if it were considerably safer and cleaner.

Earlier in 2023, BART made new public safety announcements, most notably doubling the number of officers on trains.

BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez stated in February that this was the largest train deployment we had in the 25 years I’ve been these, if not the department’s history.

However, riders frequently gripe about a lack of CCTV coverage, according to yearly open reports released in accordance with BART’s Surveillance Technology Ordinance.

According to a lack of surveillance coverage for train-related incidents, or parking lot vandalism and theft, the agency has received 81 complaints about its CCTV system since FY 2020. During the same time period, no complaints about privacy issues were made.

The number of CCTV cameras at BART has n’t changed much over the past four years. The agency has 4, 837 CCTV cameras installed on its 862 train cars, and 3, 281 CCTV operating cameras are installed in facilities across the BART system that are not on the trains, according to the most recent report.

Law enforcement is using CCTV video footage for judicial investigations more frequently as part of the common safety campaign.

In comparison to 3, 128 cases in FY 2022, BART PD has requested video for judicial investigations in 4, 171 cases.

In the meantime, BART keeps expanding its surveillance system with novel kinds of cameras.

A 10-year,$ 6.7 million contract for 300 body-worn cameras for BART police, fare inspectors, crisis intervention specialists, and community service officers was approved by the board of directors in August 2021. Since employees began wearing cameras, BART has n’t heard any complaints about them.

In recent years, the organization has also tested a free pilot with automatic license plate reader ( ALPR ) cameras in parking lots. A parking enforcement officer was able to issue 288 citations in 25 days in 2023 thanks to a test of one smart ALPR camera.

In May to October, 40 % fewer trains were delayed as a result of unwelcome behavior, and more riders than ever before reported seeing BART PD on their ride, according to data released by the public safety organization ( BART ).

However, it’s very first to predict how much of an overall effect innovative technology and presence will have on crime.

The Chief’s Crime Report from July showed that overall crime had increased by 69 percent since the exact period in 2022, with auto theft, larceny, and auto burglary experiencing the biggest increases. From the same time next year, there were sharp declines in homicide, rape, burglary, and arson.

Viktor Musil

Victor Musil, pen name for Edouard Py, advocates for inclusive, people-centered city development. His work underscores the importance of ethical considerations and equitable access, shaping the discourse on urban innovation worldwide.

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