DURHAM, N.C. — The city of Durham is taking steps to make riding on its buses safer. Starting Monday, the Durham Area Transit Authority,
, will have police officers as passengers.
Police will patrol the DATA terminal and buses from 10 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.
"We'll be riding the buses on some days, some days we'll be following, some days we'll be working with the gang units," police chief Steve Chalmers said.
Durham Police Department
hopes the officers' presence will help curb violence on and near buses.
Last week, a bus became a target for gunfire as it was traveling near Raynor Street and Miami Boulevard with three people on board.
The shooting was the second time since January that a bus has been struck and the fifth time in less than a year.
In January 2001, a 16-year-old passenger was grazed by a bullet.
Last year, safety efforts on city buses were increased. Private police officers were brought on board and security cameras and panic buttons were added to 30 buses.
How effective officer ride-alongs will be is unclear. Chalmers admits the newly-created bus beat is not a guarantee the shootings will stop.
"Until we address the source of the problem, the community is not going to be safe, the buses are not going to be safe. This is not just a bus issue," he said.
Police believe most, if not all, of the shootings are gang-related.
Police are reviewing a bus surveillance tape from last week's shooting and believe they have identified the suspects.
Close to 13,000 people ride DATA buses each day.