Boston transit agency now encourages photography

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BOSTON – In a reversal of attitudes toward photography, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is now encouraging riders to take photos of suspicious activity, and has created a smart phone application to do so.

The authority also announced that it has repealed all rules against taking pictures on its property.

“It is time we lifted any restrictions on taking pictures,” said MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan. “It’s almost impossible to control.” Now that most riders have cellphones with built-in cameras, MacMillan said, it is more beneficial to start encouraging their use in order to decrease crime.

With the free iPhone “See Say” application, riders can share pictures, text, and location details with a dispatcher, if they see something suspicious while traveling. The application, which is now available on, is part of the MBTA’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign, which was launched in 2003 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Transit Security Grant Program provided funding for the app and campaign. The app can be used to report everything from a suspicious package to a sighting of a missing person. If a user does not have cell service in range, the app is programmed to send a report as soon as service is available. Users can also choose to submit a tip anonymously. The camera’s flash will automatically be disabled if a rider wants to use the app to discreetly take a picture of something suspicious.

Transit police dispatchers who receive the tip can respond to an alert with more questions. The app can also be programmed to receive updates regarding service delays or other alerts.
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