BART board approves use of license plate readers

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- After five years of discussion, the BART Board of Directors has unanimously approved a new policy that allows for the use of automated license plate readers in at least some BART parking lots.

Police say the images would help them recover stolen items such as cars and also would serve as a deterrent.

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The readers would supplement the 400 video cameras BART already has on its trains and platforms and at stations and lots.

"It does give our riders peace of mind that they're going to leave their vehicles parked for a lengthy time" said BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas, "and if for some reason there is a crime, will have a mechanism to investigate."

District staff estimates BART riders lost more than $7 million in property, from vandalism, theft and stolen cars, in its parking lots during a two-period from 2017-2018.

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A few people spoke out at the board meeting about privacy concerns.

"You are about to embark on a system of real time mass surveillance. That is pretty significant. That is a decision you should not take lightly. Do you, do we, does everyone want to live in that kind of world? That is the question you have to step back and ask yourself," said JP Massar of Oakland Privacy.

At the meeting, directors said the new policy would not allow federal immigration officials, or ICE agents, to have any of the data collected, and that such a ban would be specifically included once a larger contract is adopted. BART would also would only keep the data for 30 days.

BART will first launch a pilot program using technology the district already has, gather data from the pilot and then consider a proposal to buy more cameras with updated technology at a future meeting.

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