Michael Bodley, San Francisco Chronicle, July 11, 2017
A top BART official opened the door for a fresh round of criticism Monday when she explained the transit agency’s decision to withhold information about criminal misconduct on the system by pointing at what she called the media’s “disproportionate elevation” of crimes that “unfairly affect and characterize riders of color.”
Two BART board members took issue with Assistant General Manager Kerry Hamill’s reasoning, which they said went on unnecessary tangents and further clouded the transit agency’s commitment to transparency.
In a July 7 memo to BART’s board of directors obtained by The Chronicle, Hamill referred to the latest crime on BART that attracted widespread attention: the snatching of a woman’s cell phone about a week earlier by a group of at least 10 juveniles at Coliseum Station.
Although only a cell phone was stolen, the incident was similar to an earlier violent robbery involving a group of juveniles at the same station. BART officials did not immediately widely publicize either robbery.
In her memo, which was not intended to be made public, Hamill wrote that much of the criticism leveled at BART for refusing to provide detailed descriptions of crime on the system “was generated for the benefit of media themselves.”
The juveniles in the June 30 incident were detained, photographed and released after the victim could not identify the main perpetrator, and the victim got her phone back thanks to a heroic 62-year-old security guard who took a beating in the process.
The Chronicle learned about the theft from the victim days after the incident. The newspaper and other outlets withheld the races of the suspected juveniles, but Hamill criticized the media reports as filled with “sweeping generalizations” that perpetuate prejudice.
The agency’s police department suddenly stopped issuing a daily log of crimes on the system soon after BART’s new police chief, Carlos Rojas, was sworn in on May 24.
Until then, the logs had been emailed to about 300 people and news agencies, providing them with descriptions of each crime.