Summit bus riders may be recorded
Vail, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY ” In January, a Summit Stage bus driver said, an angry passenger who apparently felt “blown-off” punched him in the chest, shoved him against the glass, berated him for being a foreigner, and threatened repeatedly to “kick his ass.”
But like many cases that devolve into a he-said she-said scenario, charges against the man were dropped with police citing a lack of proof to prosecute.
The outcome could have been much different, had a video or audio record of the incident been provided to authorities during their investigation, county transit officials say.
Summit Stage Director John Jones said four drivers had been assaulted in the last year, but three of those cases were either plea bargained or dismissed altogether.
“Video surveillance would have been a great help to law enforcement,” Jones said. “It’s also a matter of public safety.”
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Jones and safety coordinator Steve Stirling reported increasing violent crimes and vandalism on bus routes and at bus stops since 2002 when late-night service began.
In 2006, there was a “dramatic increase in all kinds of events,” Jones said, citing numbers that show the number of incidents almost double. And already in 2007, Jones reported 16 “events,” including public drunkenness, obscene conduct, violence and vandalism, and seven accidents so far this year.
Jones wants to Outfit all 32 buses with cameras ” both internal and external ” and digital recording equipment. He also wants video surveillance at both the Frisco and Silverthorne transit centers.
If the plan takes shape, the larger buses would have eight cameras per vehicle ” with views out the front window, along both sides and the rear, and of multiple angles inside the bus. Drivers would likely have a monitor close-by which would toggle between camera views, and in the event of an emergency, drivers could instantly record camera activity with the push of a button.
New recording equipment would also be installed at both the Frisco and Silverthorne transit centers ” which have been magnets of late for criminal activity. Just this year, there have been five incidents at the Silverthorne Transit Center, including a fire. No one has ever been charged in any of the events, due to lack of any hard evidence.
Silverthorne Police Chief Joe Russell, in a recent letter of support for the surveillance systems, said that they’ve upped patrols in and around the Transfer Center, but “this type of system would help us identify the individuals responsible for the criminal behavior.”
Digital surveillance systems have become commonplace in transit systems across the country. The Denver, Eagle County, Steamboat Springs and Roaring Fork bus systems all use surveillance cameras.
In other words, many of the privacy concerns regularly raised when new cameras are installed in the public arena have already been considered by courts across the country.
Summit bus riders took the news in stride on Tuesday.
“I don’t mind. I’m not the kind of person to get into trouble,” said Tom Shedrick, a Wildernest resident who rides the bus nearly every day. “I feel safe as it is, but things can happen anywhere, at any time.”