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City eyes better security to reduce bus-driver assaults

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Winnipeg Transit wants to expand surveillance on buses in response to a growing number of assaults against drivers.

Council's public works committee will review a report at a meeting on Tuesday that shows Winnipeg Transit wants to change the camera angles on buses to better capture incidents of assaults against bus drivers.

Currently, on-board surveillance cameras do not record the bus driver's compartment, which means some assaults may not be entirely caught on video. The report said expanding camera angles will produce more evidence to investigate assaults when they occur.

In April, council's public works committee asked city staff to develop a strategy to keep transit drivers and bus passengers safe in light of concerns the number of assaults against bus drivers is on the rise.

City data show 63 assaults against bus drivers were reported last year, up from 56 in 2010 and more than double the number reported in 2006. Between January and March 2012, bus drivers reported 23 assaults to Winnipeg Transit.

"The number that have occurred are unacceptable and we need to make progress in managing them," said Winnipeg Transit director Dave Wardrop.

Wardrop said there have been instances where someone has leaned into the bus driver's compartment, and officials want to ensure incidents are captured completely on camera. He said transit officials also plan to strike a joint review committee with union members to review assaults and develop new strategies on how to reduce them.

Wardrop said disputes over bus-fare payments trigger a significant number of assaults aboard transit buses -- between 30 to 40 per cent. He said the review committee will examine the city's non-payment policy before it introduces its electronic fare collection boxes, which will easily flag passengers who do not pay the full amount.

Transit also plans to display warnings that notify passengers buses are equipped with audio and video surveillance and they could be prosecuted for assault.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2012 0

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