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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

New Surveillance at JFK/UMass Station



In late January, the MBTA finished installing over fifty new cameras in and around the JFK/UMass train station, along with a large in-station monitor showing footage of the station’s platforms.

On the MBTA’s own website and in interviews with the Boston Globe, the agency cited its concern over the sexual assault of a UMass Boston student and a string of armed muggings of female commuters, all of which took place in late 2012. Transit Police Superintendent Joseph O’Connor told the Globe that the installation of the cameras was a response to these crimes.

The cameras are intended both to capture crimes as they take place, alerting station officials via the monitor in the station, and to record and save footage for at least a month so that it can be used as evidence by police after an arrest.

While the MBTA itself has no budget for additional cameras, the Department of Homeland Security has funded their construction in multiple stations via grants to the transit system.

Crime statistics provided by the Transit Police on the MBTA website indicate that JFK/UMass station has an average amount of crime for a station its size, and far less crime than some other stations on the red line. The JFK/UMass stop saw eight simple assaults (minor physical or verbal attacks) and one sex offense in 2012. The Ashmont stop reported 25 simple assaults and three sex offenses. The Alewife Station in North Cambridge, a neighborhood which many residents consider to be nearly crime-free, reported three sex offenses and ten simple assaults.

The first fifteen students asked to comment on the new cameras by a Mass Media reporter were all unaware that any changes had taken place. “I don’t think it was very well-publicized that they were going in. I travel every day, and I never heard about it,” said biochemistry and English major Katie Govoni. She added, “If it’s for my security, why aren’t [they] telling me?” 

One student who approved of the cameras said “I’ve seen people fall on the tracks and people being mugged… It helps catch the criminals faster. I’d heard that there was a woman that was harassed.” This student said that she felt safer knowing that new surveillance equipment had been installed.

Another student said he thought the new cameras were “creepy.” He went on, “I guess it increases security, but it also increases the power of the people who are surveilling you.” He also wasn’t sure that the cameras were intended to protect commuters. “Fare evasion might be a part of it,” he speculated.

Govoni agreed, saying “Either that or they’re cutting down on security officers and replacing them with cameras… It’s no different than those check-yourself-out tellers.”

Govoni said that the new cameras do not make her feel safer, but she’s never relied on the MBTA for protection in the first place. “I walk around with a knife,” she explained.

MBTA officials were unavailable for comment.