New App Lets Bay Area Commuters Silently Report Crime - FindLaw Blotter
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New App Lets Bay Area Commuters Silently Report Crime

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has released a new mobile app that allows riders to discreetly report criminal activity on the trains.

BART Watch, available on iTunes and Android in English, Spanish, and Chinese, empowers users to snap photos or send quick texts to BART police rather than try to call 911 or run to a train's intercom. BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost told SFGate that it's "sort of like texting police," and you can even do it anonymously.

How does this app square with other tech efforts by law enforcement?

App to Report Mass Transit Crime Anonymously

With the advent of driving report programs like REDDI, it was only a matter of time until someone adapted the concept for mass transit passengers. BART authorities had announced in March that they were collaborating with ELERTS Corporation to make the BART Alert app, similar versions of which had been created in Massachusetts Bay, Atlanta, and Santa Clara, California.

This new app was part of a larger national effort, urging transit passengers that "If You See Something, Say Something." The vague yet Orwellian slogan was cooked up by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and encourages average citizens to act as extra eyes and ears for law enforcement.

New apps like these may be especially in demand in cities like New York, where the police department has taken a hard stance on even the most minor crimes which occur in the city's subways.

How Do You Use the App?

After installing the app, BART Watch asks for permission to send you emergency alerts and "push" notifications. Then, you are asked to enter your first name, last name, email, phone number, and even face picture. A small disclaimer at the bottom notes that the information is "optional."

Once you pass these initial screens, you are lead to the app's main page with the following main options: Report an incident or call BART police. Since one of the selling points of this free app was as an alternative to calling 911, we checked out reporting an incident. The menus were fairly user friendly and allowed users to take photos, type a brief report and even select the type of report and location of the activity. It also included an option to toggle between normal and "anonymous" reporting.

Trends like this new app may allow law enforcement to more readily police transit lines in major cities.

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