BART Board approves license plate readers for parking areas

‘Summer Soiree’ heading to downtown Richmond rooftop
Richmond BART parking garage

BART stations including Richmond and El Cerrito del Norte Station will soon be equipped with Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) systems aimed at cracking down on crimes such as auto thefts and burglaries.

On Thursday, the BART Board of Directors approved moving forward with pursuing a contract to install the surveillance technology to crack down various crimes, including auto burglaries and thefts that cost riders about $7 million over the last two years, according to transit agency data.

Both the Richmond and El Cerrito del Norte stations were considered among 16 “priority” BART sites for the technology given current data on auto thefts and burglaries, the transit agency said.

ALPR systems feature cameras that can capture vehicle license plate images and a portion of the vehicle, with the aim of identifying crime suspects and ultimately preventing crimes from being committed on people or vehicles in BART owned and operated parking facilities.

The use of such technologies increased stolen vehicle recovery by 50-percent across the U.S., according to a 2012 RAND Corporation study.

The technology has been the subject of controversy over whether collected information would end up in the hands of immigration authorities. But BART staff told the Board the contract for the system will include language prohibiting data from being shared with ICE or used for any immigration enforcement. The data will be shared with law enforcement agencies possessing a “need and legal right to know,” agency officials said.

According to BART, the system is needed to boost security. In 2017 and 2018, an average of 1,054 auto burglaries, 387 auto thefts and 125.5 catalytic converter thefts were reported in BART parking facilities, the transit agency reported.

“ALPR technology increases law enforcement’s ability to recover lost/stolen property and provide evidentiary support for criminal prosecution,” according to BART.

Aside from the Richmond and El Cerrito Del Norte stations, others deemed as “priority” for receiving the technology are Fruitvale, Coliseum, San Leandro, Bay Fair, Hayward, South Hayward, Dublin/Pleasanton, North Berkeley, Rockridge, Concord, North Concord, Pittsburg Pay Point, West Oakland, Daly City, and Antioch.