Behind-the-scenes look at BART police video surveillance room

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Inside BART police headquarters in Oakland is the nerve center of the transit agency's video unit, where digital footage from the entire BART system is reviewed, stored and analyzed.

"We try to do a little bit of everything. We have our parking lots, we have our platforms, we have concourse, fare gates," said Aliyyah Shah, a BART police community service officer.

TV screens allow BART police to monitor some of its 4,000 cameras in real-time. Police can also retrieve video from a crime that's already happened.

"We get whatever's going on live during the day," Shah said. "During my work hours we listen to the radio, we try to be very interactive with dispatch and our officers in the field, to identify suspects."

The surveillance system  includes "pan, tilt, zoom" cameras that can actually be moved to follow people as they make their way through BART property.

KTVU crime reporter Henry Lee got a first-hand look how BART cameras operate. Cameras tracked Lee as he exited the fare gates at the Lake Merritt BART station, went up the escalator, crossed 8th Street and ended up at BART police headquarters.

Cameras captured images of John Cowell the night police say he fatally stabbed Nia Wilson at the MacArthur BART Station in Oakland.

Other suspects have also been caught with the help of cameras, including an assault suspect busted just two hours after his picture was released publicly.

"It's just another tool for our investigators and our personnel to be able to use those images and the video to let people know that we're watching them, and if they were to come on BART and try to think or do a crime, that we're gonna catch them," said BART Deputy Police Chief Ed Alvarez.