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PostSubject: Transit boss hopes cops, cameras help bus security   Sun Mar 18, 2007 5:54 pm

Transit boss hopes cops, cameras help bus security
Since Monday, there have been more Metro Transit police officers riding buses as part of their shifts. The department is also improving camera technology.
Republished from Star Tribune: By Tom Ford, Star Tribune

After going more than five years since there was a shooting or a person killed on a Metro Transit bus, the agency experienced two such incidents in just five days.
While the shooting on a Route 5 bus Thursday night and a fatal fight Monday aboard a bus on Route 10 have grabbed headlines, Metro Transit Police Chief Dave Indrehus doesn't see them as the start of a crime trend. He considers the two incidents to be isolated.

Nevertheless, he said the department of 50 full-time officers, plus a pool of 70-part-time officers from other metro agencies, has plans for a few changes: improving the bus camera technology and asking the Minneapolis chapter of MAD DADS to up the number of hours they ride buses.

Indrehus, a longtime Minneapolis police officer who has been with Metro Transit since 2002, spoke with the Star Tribune Tuesday.

Q By measures your department takes, are buses getting more dangerous or more vulnerable to crime?

A I don't believe that's the case at all. I think these were two isolated incidents. We haven't had a shooting on board a bus ... [since December 2001] I doubt many communities can make that claim. ... On a normal day, we will put out between 12 and 15 marked squads. Every one of those officers is required at some time during their 8-hour shift to get on board at least five buses. In addition to that, something we had set up several weeks ago that actually was implemented [Monday], is that we now have full-time officers who ride their entire 8-hour shift aboard our buses.

Q What was the impetus to that change?

A It was simply a matter of, we want our customers to see the uniformed officers. We have officers that ride the light rail every day for their whole shift. There's no reason why we shouldn't have officers ride the buses.

Q What are some of the steps you will be taking regarding bus safety?

A All of our buses are equipped with multiple cameras. I mention that because it was key to these two cases. Not only was it key to identifying the individuals, but they will be instrumental in the prosecution of these individuals. ... There are witnesses on the bus, there is lighting on a bus, and there are multiple cameras recording all the activity on the bus. That should provide a deterrent.

Q What would you advise when a bus rider witnesses a crime or encounters troublemakers?

A They need to notify the operator [driver].

Q In general, would you recommend that riders not try to step in the middle of any trouble?

A I would say that would be a good idea.

Q What are things you can try to do to change the public perception about bus safety?

A We're hoping the uniform presence will reassure them on board these buses. But statistically, I understand that crimes are up nationwide. So we can very likely feel some small portion of that. ... We just recently had approval, and are retrofitting 260 of our buses with additional cameras. We're putting in DVRs, instead of VCRs. We're enhancing the lenses.

Q As a department, what is the biggest challenge you face in providing security?

A I don't really feel we have huge challenges in trying to accomplish that. We have good staff. You know, we have well over 800 buses in the system. It's simply not feasible to believe that we can put an officer on every single bus. Nor do I believe that that would be necessary. We just need to deal with these isolated incidents. And I personally don't think that a lot of people are necessarily going to feel that the system is not safe simply because of these two incidents.

Tom Ford 612-673-4921 tford@startribune.com
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