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Most security cameras on BART trains are fake, agency admits

By Nathan Salant     Jan 16, 2016 in Travel
Oakland - Most of the hundreds of security cameras on BART commuter trains around the Bay Area are not working, the agency admitted Wednesday as it began investigating the second onboard shooting in its 45-year history.
Carlos Misael Funez-Romero, 19, of Antioch was shot and killed Jan. 9 when a still-unidentified man approached him on a crowded train from Pittsburg to San Francisco and opened fire.
Witnesses said the suspect, a clean-shaven, 6-2 black man wearing a green jacket and a backpack, calmly left the train at the West Oakland station after the shooting and was last seen at a 99-cent store across Seventh Street in Oakland.
Authorities offered no information about the victim, who was not identified until Friday, or about the suspect, who has still not been named, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
Witnesses said the victim was a young black male, perhaps 19-25, who was shot numerous times and died at the scene despite heroic efforts by other passengers to save him, the newspaper said.
But BART has no video footage of the shooting or its aftermath, even though the train car Funez-Romero was riding in had what appeared to be at least two working cameras attached to the ceiling.
That's because most of the hundreds of security camera housings on BART commuter trains around the Bay Area do not contain cameras, despite their glowing red lights, or were never intended to work, BART officials admitted Friday.
Plus, many of the cameras that are in place are broken, sources said.
BART is the regional transit system connecting dozens of San Francisco Bay Area cities with Oakland and San Francisco.
BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey made no mention of the train cameras -- or lack thereof -- on Thursday at a BART Board of Directors meeting or the day before at a press conference.
BART does have cameras throughout its stations and passenger platforms, officials said.
But the problem with cameras on trains has surfaced before.
BART police had no film of the beginning of the fatal confrontation between them and passenger Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by an officer on a train station platform (at Fruitvale Station) that started aboard a train in 2009.
The shooting was the basis of a 2013 film, Fruitvale Station.
“If you want to give me more resources, I’ll take them,” Rainey said at Wednesday's press conference.
"I’m not going to talk about our security system other than it is a very robust system; I don’t know any other jurisdiction that has a robust system like this,” he said.
But not even all transit system directors knew that most of the cameras on BART trains were fake, though dozens of new train cars expected to arrive between 2017 and 2021 will have working cameras on every car, officials said.
“This is deeply concerning,” Director Nick Josefowitz of San Francisco said Friday.
“This is something we need to get to the bottom of;” he said.
BART police were able to distribute photos of the suspect taken by cameras inside the Pittsburg and West Oakland stations.
In an informal survey Wednesday, reporters for the Chronicle walked through seven BART trains and said 173 of the 228 camera housings they saw appeared to be fake.
BART Director Tom Radulovich of San Francisco said that when the cameras were installed on trains, directors knew some were not real. He said he doesn't recall the agency’s rationale in 1996, but assumes it was budgetary.
“The thought was that they had a deterrent effect because some people thought they were real,” he said.
BART police have asked the public for help. Anyone with any information about the shooting or who recognizes the suspect is asked to call BART police at 510-464-7040 or, to remain anonymous, at 510-464-7011.
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