KELOWNA – In an effort to keep bus drivers and their passengers safe, B.C. Transit have begun installing security cameras onboard the majority of Kelowna buses.
President of the local bus drivers’ union Scott Lovell is one of the proponents of the system, which has been tested out in three B.C. communities over the past year. A spokesperson first hinted at the possibility of recording devices being installed on Kelowna buses back in November, 2014 after a passenger was fatally stabbed from behind by a stranger.
A B.C. Transit spokesperson told Canadian Press that surveillance cameras would be rolling on some buses in the Central Okanagan by spring 2015. Then in October 2015 Transit spokesperson John Barry said it would be at least another year before any cameras go online here.
“We started a one-year pilot project in April and put cameras on 100 buses in our fleet,” he says. “We’re just collecting information and working with the Privacy Commissioners Office and other agencies and will certainly be looking at the end of the pilot if there’s an ability for us to expand the program.”
According to Barry, it cost $40,000 to purchase, install and integrate each camera on the 100 buses chosen for the pilot program. Victoria got 75 and Kamloops got 25. With roughly 1,000 buses in operation across the province, B.C. Transit will have to spend approximately $4 million, a number that will surely climb if microphones are installed as well.
“It would be a fairly capital intensive project to be able to move forward with cameras on all buses,” Barry says.
Last month, Premier Christy Clark met with representatives of B.C. Transit in Kelowna and announced the Interior's largest city would be getting cameras sooner than expected.
Lovell says he has seen the images captured by the camera’s and is convinced its an important step in increasing safety while onboard city buses.
“It’s high definition and pretty impressive,” he says. “It’s not just a deterrent it helps with prosecution. I’m pleased with how quickly it from us starting this issue and focusing attention on it to getting the cameras installed. I thank the Premier for that.”
The union is also asking for the province to look at installing physical barriers between passengers and their drivers.
“These barriers work,” he says. “I would rather lose a little bit of contact with the people of our community than get that call in the middle of the night saying one of my coworkers was assaulted and is in the hospital.”
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