Over the last few months, several attacks by large groups have targeted riders on San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains, resulting in robberies and injuries. The first of these took place in April and involved as many as sixty youth and seven victims, two of whom were beaten. The two most recent came at the end of June, including an armed robbery with a knife and another incident with a dozen perpetrators robbing a woman.
BART riders have begun to fear for their safety, and want video released to see who are committing these robberies. BART won’t release the video, however, and BART board member Deborah Allen tells CBS that it’s because they are afraid that the videos will “unfairly affect and characterize riders of color”:
According to a memo distributed to BART Directors, the agency won’t do a press release on the June 30 theft because it was a “petty crime” that would make BART look “crime ridden.” Furthermore, it would “unfairly affect and characterize riders of color, leading to sweeping generalizations in media reports.”
The memo was from BART Assistant General Manager Kerry Hamill.
Allen emailed Hamill, “I don’t understand what role the color of one’s skin plays in this issue [of whether to divulge information]. Can you explain?” Hamill responded, “If we were to regularly feed the news media video of crimes on our system that involve minority suspects, particularly when they are minors, we would certainly face questions as to why we were sensationalizing relatively minor crimes and perpetuating false stereotypes in the process.” And added her opinion of the media: “My view is that the media’s real interest in the videos of youth phone snatching incidents isn’t the desire for transparency but rather the pursuit of ratings. They know that video of these events will drive clicks to their websites and viewers to their programs because people are motivated by fear.”