San Francisco Transit Won't Release Robbery Surveillance Videos Over Racism Fears

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) authority is refusing to release surveillance videos involving a recent spate of robberies committed at BART stations in the last three months. Their reasoning?


They don’t want to perpetuate negative stereotypes of minorities.

 The CBS affiliate in San Francisco says in the last three months “there have been at least three robberies on BART involving groups of teenagers.”

April 22: Forty to sixty kids boarded a train at the Coliseum stop and robbed seven passengers, beating up two;

June 28: A group of four kids assaulted a passenger and made off with a cell phone at Dublin; and

June 30: A woman on a train with about a dozen teenagers had her phone snatched by one them before the group got off at the Coliseum stop. Thankfully, a good Samaritan was on hand to retrieve the phone.

Despite the heightened threat to the public, BART authorities continue to withhold video of the attacks from the press, citing concerns that they would be aiding negativity towards minorities, although they failed to identify which minorities are in question.

CBS interviewed BART Board of Directors member Debora Allen, who said releasing the videos would be “racially insensitive.” She says she inquired about the directive and was told higher-ups were worried about being accused of stereotyping.


“To release these videos would create a high level of racially insensitive commentary toward the district. And in addition it would create a racial bias in the riders against minorities on the trains.”

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.”

In an email response to her questions, Allen says BART Assistant General Manager Kerry Hamill elaborated.

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.”


Just to recap – innocent, paying BART riders are being beaten and robbed but authorities don’t want to properly inform the public so they can be alert because that might make more racism. Allen says it would “create a racial bias in the riders against minorities on the trains”.

Not the actual criminals. They’re not the ones creating a “racial bias” by beating and robbing people. No. It’s you dirty racists who would like to be informed of crime risks on the transportation you pay for dearly in one of the most expensive cities in the nations.


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