BART Watch app has no chance against truly dangerous criminals

After the newest Bay Area crime reporting app was labeled the “Instagram of Bad Behavior” by SF Weekly due to acting as somewhat of a snitching tool, BART Watch is going to have some trouble gaining credibility with transit passengers as well as police officers.

In March 2014, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors officially approved a multi-year contract with the company ELERTS Corp. to create the recently-launched, BART Watch.

When riding BART, passengers can text suspicious behavior discreetly to BART police. But, would a BART passenger dare text a report and take a picture of a masked person blatantly holding a gun to someone’s head?  Doubt it. It is unlikely that anyone on BART would want to risk his or her safety to get a quick shot of something illegal. Personal safety usually trumps pissing off a criminal.

“That sounds like a waste of my time and data,” English education major Shelbie Bradley said of BART Watch. “I don’t want to be stabbed to death as a result of trying to snap a picture.”

While the concept is a great idea in theory, it is doubtful that the app will pan out effectively.  According to the BART website, riders have been requesting a way to reach out to BART police in an inconspicuous way when it comes to uncomfortable situations or suspicious behavior. But how are the police supposed to alleviate problems via text when the problem is occurring on a train traveling at 80 mph?

“I guess we’d just treat it like a complaint,” said Deputy Chief Ben Fairow when asked what the police would do when receiving the texts, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

But it just does not seem like the texts would help any immediate issues. It’s not like the police can teleport to the correct car in a moment’s notice.

Since the app offers casual communication with authorities, chances are high that the freedom to connect with the police will be abused. After the app’s unfortunate comparison to Instagram, there is bound to be a ton of misuse by passengers. People can literally send in texts or pictures of anything. I mean, passengers could send sexts and inappropriate pictures if they wanted. From there, how are the BART police supposed to know what is true and what is false after too many people cry wolf?

It is a good idea. If the BART police were present at every BART station and ready to hop on if there was an emergency, the app would be worth using. There are just too many flaws and loopholes to take advantage of what the app is offering, which is direct, efficient communication with the BART police. Alerting the police in real-time when aboard BART is not going to do much forits passengers in whatever situation they may be in. Texting the authorities and telling them that you feel unsafe on the train is not going to make anyone safer or even prevent future incidents from occurring.