31 October 2006

Big Brother is watching

Back on 18th August I mentioned the fitting of CCTV to most of its fleet of buses.
I have been looking back over the past few weeks and have seen several stories involving the cctv so it does seem to have been a success. Plymouth Citybus has spent more than £250,000 installing CCTV systems on its buses in order to improve safety for both customers and employees. So far 130 out of the Citybus fleet of 173 vehicles have been fitted with the sophisticated six-camera continuous recording system, which allows the driver to check on all parts of the bus.All Citybus buses will eventually be fitted with the system, which costs £2,250 per bus and which will mean a total bill of almost £400,000.
There have been a few stories where police have used cctv pictures to try and trace passengers who have been caught on camera being abusive to drivers.
22nd August: Police are looking to speak to this man in connection with an assault which took place on a bus in Leigham. During the assault, which took place on Saturday, July 22 at about 6pm, a man spat in the bus driver's face after he told him - and a group of friends sitting with him - to behave.
13 October: Police investigating an indecent exposure offence in Plymouth have released a CCTV image of a man they want to trace.The offence is alleged to have happened in the Mutley Plain area at about 7pm on the evening of Friday, July 28
October has not been a good month for Citybus with several incidents occuring which has placed drivers and passengers at risk. One nasty incident reported 13 October reads "POLICE are appealing for witnesses after youths threw lit fireworks through the window of a bus.The main offender, described as a white male aged 15 to 20 in a white top and white cap, walked up to the open window of the Citybus 34B service and threw the fireworks in."
Another nasty incident occured 23rd October:
A bus driver and his passengers were left bloodied and shocked after a violent ambush by young thugs.Police say a group of around eight teenagers in tracksuits and hooded tops ran up behind the single-decker Citybus as it briefly stopped in North Prospect Road at the junction of Ham Drive. The yobs opened the engine flap at the rear of the vehicle and, as it was about to pull away, struck the emergency engine cut-off button.Unable to move, the driver and his handful of passengers were trapped inside as the youths pelted the side of the bus with stones, denting the metalwork and smashing a double-glazed side window.The imploding window showered glass over one passenger, causing a small cut just below the eye.
Its not just the buses themselves that are covered by cctv:
A plymouth Citybus boss has warned vandals and thieves that they are likely to be captured on CCTV if they trespass at the Milehouse depot. Operations director Phil Smith was speaking after 12 buses were damaged and vital equipment stolen in the early hours of Saturday.Thieves broke windows and stole items including special hammers designed for breaking buses' windows in an emergency, fire extinguishers and first aid boxes.Citybus estimates that the damage will cost more than £1,000 to repair.Mr Smith said no services were disrupted on Saturday following the vandalism, just after 1am that morning.He admitted that the depot was a sprawling, open site but added that it was extensively covered by CCTV cameras.
An unusual story today highlights the fact that the bus drivers themselves are also being watched by the cctv.
An investigation has been launched after allegations that a bus driver attacked three teenagers on a rival firm's bus.First Devon and Cornwall today told the Herald it was looking into an incident in which it was claimed a driver stopped his bus, got off and boarded a Plymouth Citybus vehicle. An eye witness told the Herald that the First driver allegedly 'punched' and 'throttled' one of the teenage boys. The spokesman for First Devon and Cornwall said: "A full investigation is being carried out."Phil Smith, operations manager for Plymouth Citybus, said he was aware of the allegation and had offered footage from the firm's CCTV system to aid the investigation.

This last story does show what a difficult position drivers are in. When offenders are caught they are often let of with minor punishments. If a driver does retaliate he often ends up in more trouble than the original offenders who cause the problems in the first place. At least Citybus drivers know they are covered by cctv - perhaps its time for First Group to offer the same protection to its staff?

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