Muni admits many crime cameras broken

October 26, 2009 6:35:16 PM PDT
Surveillance cameras are crucial to solving crime on San Francisco's Muni buses, but new statistics obtained by the ABC7 I-Team show many of those cameras are broken.

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The I-Team had to file a public records request to get the information, but Monday it found out that, as of last month, the surveillance cameras on more than one-half of San Francisco's city buses and light rail were broken or only partially functional.

When 11-year-old Hatim Mansori was stabbed riding the 49-Mission bus last month, the camera that should have caught the attack was broken.

That prompted San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Executive Director Nat Ford to order a review to find out how many of the city's buses and light rail vehicles also had problems with their surveillance systems.

"When we did our review of the video systems on our vehicles in September, we found that about half of the video systems had either complete non-functionality or partial non-functionality," Muni spokesperson Judson True said.

According to Muni's own review, only 48 percent of Muni buses and light rail vehicles had working cameras on board -- 22 percent had broken cameras, while the remaining 30 percent were classified as "partially functional."

Mansori's family is outraged at the news.

"The Muni just, you know, let everybody down because of that camera -- the very crucial evidence that could have, you know, solved the case right away," Mansori's brother Abdesalam said.

Police still have not caught the man who stabbed Mansori.

"They should fix the camera, because it's safety for everybody," his mother Laila said.

"The guy's still out there on the loose, maybe he's somewhere else, maybe he's planning on stabbing another kid; who knows," Abdesalam said.

Muni says it has repaired 80 percent of the cameras and plans to have the rest of the repairs completed by the end of November. Muni spokesperson Judson True says it will cost $1.2 million to repair the broken cameras. The agency has even had to declare a state of emergency to get parts for outdated cameras -- the oldest, purchased 11 years ago.

"Our technology is outmoded and it makes no sense for us to put Band-Aids on five different camera systems, aging as much as 11 years, we ought to put a system in that works," San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty said.

Dufty chairs the city's transportation authority. He says all the old cameras should be replaced with a brand new surveillance system. Dufty estimates the cost at $2 million and says federal stimulus money should cover it.

"For me, this is a top priority; it's just inexcusable, there's no reason why the city can't work together and make this system safe for people," Dufty said.

Irwin Lum, the president of the Muni bus drivers' union, says crime is a growing problem on Muni and the cameras should be fixed for the protection of drivers and passengers.

"People get hurt on the buses, and we're not talking about light-weight petty crimes now, we're talking about felonies, people getting stabbed, and you know people almost getting killed on these buses, so you know, I think that they need to get on the ball and make sure that it works for everybody," Lum said.

BLOG: Muni's broken surveillance cameras

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