70 Percent of BART's Cameras Are Decoys, Public Records Show | NBC Bay Area
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70 Percent of BART's Cameras Are Decoys, Public Records Show

BART records reveal 470 of the transit agency's 669 train cars have decoy cameras inside.

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    Out of nearly 700 BART cars with cameras on board, 70 percent are decoys, NBC Bay Area has learned. Jodi Hernandez reports. (Published Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016)

    Out of nearly 700 BART cars with cameras on board, 70 percent are decoys, NBC Bay Area has learned.

    An additional 7 percent are either not working or not active, leaving 23 percent of the agency's surveillance cameras in good working order.

    Those numbers came to light officially on Tuesday following a California Public Records request seeking information regarding the transit agency's working cameras. The San Francisco Chronicle first reported that Bay Area Rapid Transit used some percentage of fake cameras after a fatal shooting at the West Oakland BART station on Jan. 9.

    Until now, the total number of real and fake cameras was not formally made public.

    But, in a letter from BART's counsel, the transit agency acknowledged that 470 of the 669 BART cars have decoy cameras, nine aren't working and 39 are in an experimental stage. BART says all the cameras on its platforms are real and in working order.

    The fact that the vast majority of BART cameras are plastic decoys with blinking LED lights surprised politicians and leaders when the news was revealed in mid January.  BART then announced the agency would buy real cameras on the trains, a fact that spokeswoman Alicia Trost reiterated on Tuesday.

    "Once the public felt they weren't safe, we said we'd buy the cameras," Trost said. She said the decoy cameras were originally bought in the 1990s as anti-graffiti crime deterrents. "And they worked," she added.

    Still, the public outcry pushed BART to purchase the new cameras, which need to be installed a few at a time during off hours. Trost said she did not know just how long that would take. BART said the new cameras would cost $1.42 million and come out of the agency's operational budget.

    She also added that many transit agencies do not use any cameras at all on their trains, though the Chicago Transit Agency boasts 23,000 working surveillance cameras, which have led to the arrests of 926 people since June 2011.

    But when 19-year-old Carlos Misael Funez-Romero of Antioch was killed on a BART train -- the first such death since the 1990s -- the public wanted video of it. It was then that the news about BART's non-working cameras came to light.

    There is a $10,000 reward for information in the case.

    Contact Lisa Fernandez at lisa.fernandez@nbcuni.com or 408-432-4758. Follow on Twitter at @ljfernandez