News reports say a new cell phone app allows Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) riders to instantly send photos of suspicious people to the cops.
The program is intended to reduce crime and create a safer environment for commuters.
"The data shows that BART riders report Blacks for both alleged crimes and non-crimes at disproportionate rates compared to other racial or ethnic groups," according to EastBayExpress.com.
While ten percent of the BART riders are black, 68 percent of app submissions reported black people.
Riders were also chided for complaining about foul-smelling homeless people.
The media implied racist white people were sending the complaints, noting that most were submitted in English rather than Spanish or Chinese. The media failed to mention that police in the Bay Area speak English as do nearly all the residents, regardless of race.
Police, however, are not complaining. The gripes come for so-called 'civil-rights' advocates.
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BART riders are using the transit system's new security app to complain to police about Black and homeless people and to report non-crimes.
Last August, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system launched a mobile security app called BART Watch, which allows riders to send alerts, including text messages and photos, directly to BART police from their cellphones. Through a California Public Records Act request, the Express obtained a month's worth of alerts, approximately 763 individual messages sent to the BART police, and analyzed the contents.
The data shows that BART riders report Blacks for both alleged crimes and non-crimes at disproportionate rates compared to other racial or ethnic groups, and that people perceived as being homeless are also being targeted with a high number of complaints, often for sleeping, smelling bad, and other non-crimes.
BART police representatives told the Express that the app has become a valuable tool, but human rights advocates say the way it's being used by the public is cause for concern.
"Society conspires to marginalize people," said Zachary Norris, executive director of the Ella Baker Center. "With this app, you see the criminalization of poverty and racial profiling all put together."
Riders can download the BART Watch app for iOS or Android phones. The app provides users with a list of crimes that can be instantly reported with the click of several buttons, including "crime in progress," "robbery/theft," and "sexual assault/lewd behavior."
The pre-set choices also include vague categories, such as "disruptive behavior" and "suspicious activity," that leave it up to passengers to decide what warrants a request for police. Riders can snap photographs and send them along with text messages to BART police. The app is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese languages.
"We're getting a lot of reports, and a lot don't rise to the level of criminal activity," acknowledged BART Deputy Chief Benson Fairow. "But we hear about the problems and that's what is important for us. So we appreciate getting the low-level stuff."
BART provided the Express with 367 printed pages of data for alerts sent between the dates of April 7, 2015 and May 12, 2015. None of the alerts were sent in Spanish or Chinese languages. Of the 763 alerts sent to BART, 198 included a description of the race of the person who was the subject of the complaint. Out of these 198 alerts indicating a person's race, 134 of them, or 68 percent, described Black people as offenders and suspects warranting a police response. The sheer number of complaints against Blacks is hugely disproportionate to BART's passenger demographics. According to a 2008 survey conducted by BART, only 10 percent of the transit system's daily customers are Black, whereas 48 percent are white, 24 percent are Asian American, and 20 percent are Latino. Of the 198 alerts sent to BART police that identified a person's race or ethnicity, only 37 targeted whites as offenders, just 19 percent of the total.
Some of the alerts identifying Blacks as offenders concerned behaviors that are not crimes, or appeared to be based on suspicion, rather than solid evidence of criminal wrongdoing. And many of the actual complaints alleging crimes committed by Blacks were for minor, non-violent offenses, such as panhandling or drinking. Blacks were most likely to be complained about by other passengers for alleged "disruptive behavior," one of the pre-set, vague complaint categories that BART Watch app users can select with the click of a button. Passengers who sent these alerts to the police often characterized playing music, singing, dancing, talking loud or yelling, and taking up more than one seat as "disruptive behavior" by a Black person that warranted a police response.
In addition to disruptive behavior, the pre-set offenses "other," "panhandling," and "suspicious activity" rounded out the top reasons a passenger sent an alert to the BART police regarding a Black person. All together, there were 109 complaints against Black people for these four reasons, whereas there were only seven "crime in progress" alerts sent through the app that identified Blacks as breaking a specific law, and among these, only one appeared to be for a potentially violent offense. The rest were apparently for drinking alcohol, smoking, and yelling on the train.
More racist hate crime reports at AbateTheHate.com [click here]
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