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According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, 2015 saw a 7% increase in crime on city buses and railways. These crimes include theft, larceny, homicide, rape and assault, aggravated assault, robbery, auto theft and burglary. The only crime that decreased in occurrence was arson. The people of MA are tax paying citizens, and as such, deserve safer passage on their journeys. Whether they are commuters trying to get to and from work safely or they are infrequent city transportation users who just want a relaxing night out, they deserve adequate protection from criminals.
In answer to the spike in crime on city subways and buses, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has begun to install security camera systems on each of its 225 buses, one step of many in its attempt to overhaul the lackadaisical surveillance system. The system includes monitors on which the passengers can view live footage of what is being recorded. Camera installation is funded by a $6.9 million grant, which was awarded in 2010, from the Department of Homeland Security.
The cameras and monitors on this new system will allow passengers to see what is going on in the driver’s cab by streaming live footage to monitors placed within the passenger compartment of buses and subway cars. The footage will also stream directly to monitors at the department’s dispatch center. If necessary, the footage can be recorded and stored for later use as an aid in criminal prosecution.
At least 225 of the city’s buses will be completely furnished with this new and improved surveillance system by the end of the season.
An additional 210 more buses are expected to be equipped with high definition cameras, less the corresponding video screens, to provide live footage from approximately 40% of the organization’s fleet. Each bus will have three cameras each, all of which will offer 360-degree views. In total, two-thirds of the fleet’s buses will be covered by 435 camera systems, making Boston’s system one of the most comprehensive in the country to date.
The goal of the new surveillance system is to up the number of eyes watching out for criminal activity. Additionally, it puts control into the riders’ hands, essentially allowing them to take part in their own protection. For these reasons, the department feels like the system will be highly effective in deterring crime, or preventing it from getting out of hand.
The ultimate goal is to receive enough funding to equip all of the system’s buses with surveillance cameras, which Randy Clarke, senior director of security and emergency management for the MBTA, says would include a $1.3 billion upgrade to the system’s Red and Orange Lines in 2019.
Currently, approximately 200 buses have security cameras mounted on the fare box, but they are inconvenient and do not do much to deter crime. Most riders are unaware that those cameras even exist. When crimes do occur, T staff have to find the bus that they’re on and remove the hard drive, which takes a considerable amount of time. At that point, the perpetrator is already long gone.
The new cameras, on the other hand, send a digital video feed directly to the T’s bus control center, allowing for real time monitoring. Now, instead of having to locate the victimized bus, the T’s police officers can see the crime instantly, know which bus it’s occurring on and track that bus without issue.
Better yet, the feed will be streamed directly to monitors inside the MBTA Police officers’ cruisers, equipping them with the tools they need to quickly and effectively respond to emergency situations.
In addition to crime deterrence and improved response times, District Attorney Daniel F. Conley hopes that the cameras will also aid in criminal prosecution, stating that “Functioning cameras are like witnesses with perfect recall, and we see the benefits they offer every day in court.”
The crime rates on Massachusetts’ buses is definitely not as high as it is in other cities and states, but the fear is real. Riders want to know that they can get to and from work without incident, or that they can visit their parents an hour away without worry that when they arrive, their pocketbooks will be missing. The goal of the systems, ultimately, is to reduce fear and reestablish trust within the community.
Those riders that have already seen the new monitors claim to be comforted by the live recording of their trip. None were concerned about privacy issues. In fact, some passengers claimed to want to see more monitors, and are surprised that the T hasn’t enacted a similar system sooner. One rider hopes that the cameras will encourage riders to start following public transit rules and etiquette, and to stop crowding the entrances.
“The bus gets wicked crowded,” says one daily rider. “Now you can look at the video monitor and tell them, ‘Guys, you have so much room back there.’”
Mammoth Security in Boston is dedicated to making the community a safer place for everyone. If you are interested in how you can do your part to reduce crime, reach out to our CCTV security camera installation team to discuss your options today.