BART considering license plate readers at every station to combat crime

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License plate readers at every BART parking lot - that's the pitch BART police made Thursday morning to the agency. (KGO-TV)

License plate readers at every BART parking lot -- that's the pitch BART police made Thursday morning to the agency.

Some people attended a BART board meeting on Thursday to speak out with concerns about privacy and the board listened. They want to create a committee to take a closer look.

They use them on bridges and in some private buildings and parking garages, but putting them in a BART parking garage raises concerns among privacy activists.

"Why do you need this at all? Why suddenly now, after 44 years of operation, does BART suddenly feel that they need to know the license plate of every car," Oakland Privacy Working Group's J.P. Masser said.

BART police say having license plate cameras in their parking garages could help them crack down on crime.

"You can narrow down the time frame for when those thefts occurred and then, because there's only one entrance or maybe only a couple entrances and exits,you can actually go back and look and see OK, what car left or what car arrived before that happened," BART Police Dept.'s Dep. Chief Ben Fairow said.

They're currently installed at the MacArthur BART station because there is power there to support them. They are not turned on yet.

There will first be a debate on what BART will do with the information collected.

"The civil liberties and implications of this are many. They include horror stories arising from false positive identification to information that might be used for deportations, for prosecuting people for debt and unconstitutional investigations," Masser said.

BART is willing to listen to concerns and adjust but the plan now is to store information collected from the cameras for one year.

"That complies with the California government code, which speaks to retention periods of records. Could it be shorter? Yeah. But it's less information that we could use later to help solve crimes," Fairow said.

BART's goal is to have these cameras at every station. That could mean digging some trenches to provide a power source for these cameras.

All of that sounds a way off for now because first and foremost will be a debate on whether they're worth having at all.

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