BART Tests Watch Tower to Curb Break-Ins, Thefts at Stations

The Bay Area Rapid Transit agency's 2014 crime report released this week shows crime overall is down across the board except in one category: bike theft.

The transit agency thinks it has a solution, but some critics said it is over-reaching. BART is testing out a new portable watch tower at the North Berkeley station to discourage vehicle break-ins and auto and bike thefts.

The tower, called SkyWatch, has tinted windows so no one, especially criminals, can tell whether someone is inside, officials said.

"We're doing our best to protect people's property while they're out working or shopping," BART Deputy Police Chief Benson Fairow said. "So they have a car in one piece when they come back, or the bicycle is there when they come back."

BART said the tower also gives cops a much-needed overhead perch to see large areas at once.

Opponents said the tower is similar to the ones used by border patrol and that using them in a city like Berkeley is over the top.

"I think we have a society where there's too much surveillance," said Francisco Dominguez, a BART rider. "And we're being watched all the time, and there's not any reason for it."

Some people who live near the North Berkeley BART station have also expressed concerns over privacy, but the majority of riders seem to like the idea of extra security.

"Everybody's wondering how much surveillance is going on in their neighborhood," Berkeley-resident Deron Pease said. "But it can be a good thing too."

BART police said it has also used the watch tower at the Oakland Coliseum station parking lot during Raiders games.

"The parking lot is a public area. We have our hands full trying to protect people and property that are there," Fairow said. "Our personnel don’t have a whole lot of time to be outside BART property."

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