KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) A surge of violence on Kansas City Metro buses last month has drivers worried about their safety and transit authority executives looking for ways to beef up security to protect drivers and riders alike.
About 100 bus drivers met last week with police officers and officials with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority about dangerous incidents in July that included the beating and stabbing of a driver over a fare, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/18ZFOpe) reported.
Authority spokeswoman Cindy Baker said the meeting gave a chance for drivers to voice concerns and make suggestions on how to keep similar attacks from happening.
“There’s no easy answers. Crime is happening everywhere,” Baker said. “The (incidents) we can control the most are the ones involving operators, so that’s going to be our beginning focus.”
In addition to the attack on a bus driver by two young men, other high-profile incidents last month include a woman who doused passengers with gasoline and tried to light a match after an argument, and a shooting in which a young man was wounded and others were hurt by glass shards also after an argument.
A task force comprised of police, drivers and transit executives is looking at such measures as increased driver training, protective glass barriers around drivers and a text line for passengers to report incidents when they happen.
The transit authority also is hiring seven more off-duty, uniformed police officers bringing its total to 40 who will ride Metro buses a combined 900 hours per month.
“Everything is on the table,” Baker said. “We’re looking across the country at safety measures that other systems are using.”
Jonathan P. Walker, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union’s local chapter, has driven buses for 40 years and said there are no easy fixes to the problem.
“Each case is different,” said Walker, who is working with the ATA and its task force on safety.
Nearly all incidents of violence on buses begin with verbal assaults, Walker said, and the key is to design a system in which bus drivers and passengers can defuse confrontations before they escalate.
Violence on buses is a growing problem across North America, said Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
“It’s been more than an uptick (in bus violence). It’s been more like an avalanche over the course of several years,” said Hanley, who drove public buses for three decades.
He said there is growing frustration among economically stressed people who neither trust nor like the government. Passengers generally see bus drivers as representatives of the government agencies that raise fares, Hanley said.
Kansas City Police Sgt. John Frazier said the task force needs to do whatever it can to improve safety.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com
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