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BART Still Hasn't Installed Surveillance Cameras

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A BART police officer rides one of the system's trains.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

BART has not yet begun to install new surveillance cameras on its trains more than six months after a fatal shooting revealed that most of the current devices on its cars were decoys.

In late January, the transit agency announced that it had begun the process of buying cameras for its cars. But a BART spokesman now says the new devices won't be installed until late 2017 at the earliest.

The system's board of directors is expected to vote in September on buying camera equipment. After the agency receives the parts, crews will start installing the devices on BART's entire 669-car fleet, a process that should take a year.

"It's not delayed," BART spokesman Taylor Huckaby said in an interview. "It just takes a lot of time to custom install a camera system on custom-built train cars that are decades old."

The agency needs to order special wiring used to power and operate the cameras on the system's four different kinds of cars, Huckaby said. "We have to engineer these camera systems within the narrow confines of these train cars and that takes time."

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"We wouldn't want to engineer a sloppy implementation, as that would cost us later," Huckaby said.

Engineers have begun testing potential camera installations. Work on one test car has been completed. Next month, BART plans to test installations on nine other cars. The tests are done to make sure that the cameras are recording properly and not interfering with the electrical systems in the rest of the train.

Scrutiny of BART's surveillance system began after 19-year-old Carlos Misael Funez-Romero of Antioch was shot and killed on a San Francisco-bound train at the West Oakland station.

BART police released pictures of the suspect leaving the station through its fare gates, but conceded that there was no video from the train car where the shooting took place.

Days later it was revealed that most of the agency's in-car cameras were actually decoys.

Initially, BART police officials defended the use of those decoys, saying the fact that the agency captured images of the suspect showed the system's surveillance measures work. Agency officials said that its new generation of train cars would be equipped with functioning cameras.

But, on Jan. 20, BART announced an about-face.

“We’ve decided we’re not going to wait for the fleet of the future to put a working camera on every train car,” BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said at the time. “We are going to go ahead and move forward and get those cameras and install them onto the current fleet as soon as possible. We just want to make sure everyone knows that we are already working on it and the decision’s been made."

Trost did not give a timeline.

The work has been slow because it's tough to find the right hardware to fit in BART's old train cars, Huckaby emphasized.

"We have to find a manufacturer who is able to custom-build these electronic parts that are decades outdated," he recently said. "That's a problem that BART faces in a number of different arenas when it comes to maintaining our fleet. There are times when we are literally on eBay looking for old parts that are compatible with our systems."

KQED's Peter Jon Shuler contributed to this report.

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