GRT prioritizes passenger safety

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You may notice some new additions on your next bus trip through the city — or rather, they might notice you.

Leading up to May 22, security cameras were installed on 190 Grand River Transit (GRT) buses, which includes only those vehicles built within the past 12 years. The plan was approved by Regional Council in Sept. 2011, and was followed by months of revision and public consultation.

Assistant director of GRT Peter Zinck explained, “The purpose of putting the cameras on is so that we can detect and deter … any activities” that may pose safety concerns.

While Zinck does not believe that people generally feel unsafe when using GRT services, he noted that “Some riders are less comfortable in the public area,” and that the cameras will hopefully help to make people feel more secure.

However, Waterloo Regional Police report that violent crime has been on the rise across the region in recent years.

“Since last August, we have seen more incidents of person-on-person robberies in which the target was often younger adults or teens who were carrying electronics such as cell phones,” Olaf Heinzel, the public affairs coordinator for Waterloo Regional Police Service, wrote an email. “In a few cases, a victim who had exited a bus, was followed and robbed by suspects who had also been riding the same bus.”

In response to feedback gathered through multiple consultation sessions with the public, some changes were made to the original plan. Only the camera placed closest to the driver will have audio recording capabilities, and video will only be held for up to 72 hours. If the decision is made to hold images for any purpose, it must be kept for one year.

While Zinck commented that GRT services “Haven’t had any public response since we activated [the security cameras],” he recalled that the public reaction was largely positive.

Ben Marshall, who lives in Waterloo, said that he takes the bus every day, but has never felt any threat posed to his safety. When asked if he thought security cameras were a necessary investment, he responded, “No, definitely not.”

“I’ve just never really had any incidents or anything where there’s been a problem on the bus. Usually the bus drivers take care of it pretty quickly,” Marshall said.

Fourth-year University of Waterloo student Kathleen Slofstra was in agreement, stating that she had never had any issues with personal safety on buses.

“I mean if there’s been a lot of situations happening where it’s warranting it, they’ve seen problems happening, then maybe,” she said, regarding whether the cameras were needed. “I feel like it’s a little bit of an invasion of my privacy.”

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