OAKLAND -- A BART board director on Thursday afternoon acknowledged that some of the security cameras aboard trains are fake and do not record the activity of passengers.
BART Director Gail Murray said some of the cameras are decoys and some are live, a question that arose after police refused to say whether a homicide on a train car at the West Oakland station on Saturday was captured by security cameras. BART has not released any footage of the shooting itself.
Earlier Thursday, police Chief Kenton Rainey neither addressed nor refuted allegations in the media that police have no footage of a shooting over the weekend inside a train car because the cameras aboard the six-car train were fakes.
BART police have been investigating the shooting since Saturday night, when a man shot a passenger to death as a San Francisco-bound train rolled into the West Oakland station.
"It's being portrayed that our cameras on the trains do not work. I'm not going to go into how many of our cameras are videoing or not videoing. It's a layered security system," Rainey said Thursday.
The chief said the agency's security works.
"The system is safe. You can tell that our system worked because of the photos that we released last night. You can clearly see who this guy is, " Rainey said.
The transit agency has many surveillance cameras on the station platforms and at the fare boxes. One of those cameras caught images that police have distributed widely of the gunman leaving the station. All new cars expected to be delivered over the next few years will have live surveillance cameras, Murray said. BART is just about to begin taking delivery of new cars over the next few years to replace its aging fleet.
Cameras originally were installed in the cars in 1998 as a way to stop vandals.
Fake security cameras are not unusual.
Home Depot has 21 models offered online for $10 to $50. Its site is among dozens offering them.
A 2014 eBay article on buying fake cameras says they're cheap and can deter criminals. But it warns "they are unlikely to prevent premeditated acts and cannot help their owners and authorities identify criminals or prove wrongdoing in the event of a crime."
eBay warns against buying fake cameras with blinking red lights. Those, it says, "appear almost exclusively on fake cameras." Some BART cameras have red blinking lights. BART has more than one model of cameras and a red light does not mean it is a dummy, a BART spokeswoman said.
This newspaper looked at 140 camera lights in 35 BART cars in six trains moving between San Francisco and Oakland on Thursday. Of those, only 24 -- 17 percent -- displayed a green light. The remaining 116 cameras displayed either a red light or no light at all.
Attorney Ernesto Castillo, who has defended people charged with crimes by BART police, said the transit agency has failed to produce footage of the purported crimes they said occurred on trains.
"In my experience, every single case I've had that occurred on BART there's never been footage," Castillo said Thursday. "There is no reason BART shouldn't have cameras functioning on every train."
BART directors meeting Thursday morning heard a report on the slaying, but the train video cameras were not mentioned.
The crime drew expressions of concern and sympathy at the meeting in Oakland, but the overriding message was that the trains are safe and getting safer.
"Any crime is one crime too many," BART General Manager Grace Crunican told agency directors.
At the same time, she said not to "let it overshadow the billion safe trips on BART. Our statistical trend is toward fewer crimes on BART," she said.
The meeting opened with a moment of reflection for the death of a still-unidentified passenger who was shot Saturday night as a train pulled into the West Oakland station. The assailant attacked as the train stopped. He then he stepped out the car door and escaped.
Serious crimes in the BART system were down by 10 percent in 2015 compared with 2014, Crunican said.
Neither she nor the directors mentioned the report that most of the video cameras in BART cars are fakes meant to deter crimes, not record them.
Crunican said that video cameras in the station captured good pictures of the killer, who has yet to be identified. She offered to update board members on BART's security systems but said some of it would be better done in private.
"We have a high-quality, multilayered security system, and we are making it safer," she said. "We'll be bringing requests to the board for added security."
Director Robert Raburn asked whether any counseling or chaplains had been made available to passengers who saw the slaying.
The answer was no, but counseling is available for BART employees. That shows, Raburn said, that BART needs a crisis plan.
"There are people sitting at home right now. They need some help," he said. "I'm hearing from employers."
Another director suggested the agency could contact passengers after a serious crime to see if they need help. Counseling might not be practical in the station, said Director John McPartland, "but we do have their names as witnesses."
Contact Andrew McGall at 925-945-4703.
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