Local News

Durham Manager Seeks Increased Security For Transit Buses

Posted April 9, 2003

— Buses Durham have become shooting targets. Two Durham Area Transit Authority buses have been hit in the last week.

In the last few years, police have focused on the DATA bus terminal in downtown Durham. It's been a known hangout for gang members. Now, the city is thinking about putting police officers on buses.

Thousands of people board Durham city buses everyday. Most of them probably don't think about their safety.

Edith Rivera does.

"I feel they're not as secure as they should be," Rivera said. "You're very unsafe. You're risking your life, really."

In the last week, two buses have been hit by gunfire. No one was hurt.

Two years ago, a shootout between gang members sent a 16-year-old girl riding a bus to the hospital. She was grazed in the back.

"We will not tolerate this on our transit system," City Manager Marcia Conner said.

DATA bus managers say most of the problems seem to happen on the weekends and on routes involving area malls.

Conner wants to speed up plans for a transit police unit. On Thursday, she will ask the City Council for the money needed to put officers on some of the buses.

"You will see visibility immediately," she said, "in terms of officers being on those buses."

Furthermore, Conner said 31 new buses outfitted with security equipment will soon hit the streets.

The city is hoping the new buses will help cut down on crime. Each one is armed with six surveillance cameras, and the bus driver will have easy access to a panic button, immediately sending a message back to the dispatch area that there is a problem.

Dispatchers will contact police and send them to the bus, which can be tracked with a global positioning system. The message board also will flash the words: "Call Police."

The added safety measures are comforting to passengers. But, Roger Evans said it all boils down to luck.

"It may just depend on which bus you ride and the crowd that rides it," Evans said.

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