Rise in VIA bus driver assaults prompts security changes

With drivers under constant attack, many VIA bus operators say that they're afraid to go to work.

Imagine riding on a bus, when an unruly passenger takes a jab at your driver, leaving him hurt, and unable to continue your route.

That has been the case so many times on VIA buses.

Video from an incident happened in February shows a suspect using foul language, harassing, and threatening the driver.

An SAPD dispatch call reveals another incident, when a driver was punched in the face.

“I just know that he was bleeding, I’m guessing from the face… but I don’t have any details,” the VIA dispatcher said.

The driver was left bruised and bleeding from the nose.

Also in June, and detailed by a report, a passenger pulled a knife on a driver, the same driver who was assaulted earlier in the year.

Juan Amaya, president of the local amalgamated transit union, says that some drivers fear going to work every day.

“They just don’t feel safe driving out there anymore,” Amaya said. “Most of the attacks that have been happening on the buses are when the operators are actually driving.”

The concerns have been brought to the attention of Tremell Brown, vice president of safety, training, and security at VIA.

“A very common topic right now among all transit agencies and their labor unions is the operator assault conversation,” Brown said.

As a result of these incidents, VIA has joined transit agencies across the country in trying out operator Compartment Use Enclosures, or CUE’s, clear shields meant to protect drivers from passengers.

VIA is getting feedback from passengers and drivers about the efficiency of the shields. No word yet if they will be installed on more busses.

For now, Brown says that there have been some other safety improvements, such as an increased number of uniformed officers on routes.

They’re all improvements in the right direction, to improve safety for drivers who are faced with big threats every day.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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