Monday, December 29, 2008

Bus Drivers Violated By Video Cameras

BUS drivers are so stressed by the pressure of their jobs that their driving could pose a threat to public safety.

A report by clinical psychologist Keryl Egan found the main cause of stress was a security camera trained permanently on drivers to monitor their performance, creating a sense of violation.

Most State Transit buses are fitted with six cameras, designed to protect passengers and drivers from violence. But the study, commissioned by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, reports one of the surveillance cameras is used to catch drivers committing minor offences, leaving drivers distracted and on edge.

"This is highly intimidating and has led some drivers to be ill-at-ease in their role and hesitant in their split-second decision-making, which normally would come naturally when driving," Ms Egan said. "Such preoccupation and stress is a public safety issue, as it will eventually lead to accidents."

The secretary of the union's bus division, Raul Baonza, said State Transit managers had used surveillance cameras to detect and prosecute minor breaches, such as driving outside of bus lanes, braking too quickly and not stopping at bus stops.

"The video footage has been used more to discipline drivers than protect the public," Mr Baonza said.

Ms Egan, the principal of Stormont Consulting, said she had not observed such intense scrutiny in any other industry.

The first draft of her report is based on feedback from 513 drivers from depots across the Sydney metropolitan area, including North Sydney, Ryde, Leichhardt and Randwick, and from Newcastle.

It concluded: "The way the footage has been used, as well as the placement of the camera directly onto the driver, a metre from the face, has also produced a complex sense of personal violation together with a change in the way a driver is able to do the job of driving a bus."

She said the centre of control had shifted from the driver, who was operating heavy machinery under stressful conditions, to the supervisor.

"This in itself has created a safety risk because of its effect on the driver," she said.

Transport Minister David Campbell said: "The safety of passengers and drivers is always the key priority and this has been greatly assisted by CCTV security cameras …

"Since the new digital system was fitted, these cameras have proved a deterrent to would-be offenders, as the number of assaults on State Transit drivers has decreased.

"It is the Government's policy that CCTV is used only for safety and security and not to monitor the work performance of bus drivers."

One female driver, based in the eastern suburbs, said she was aware that managers could "perve down my top whenever he/she feels like it and there is no personal privacy". Others reported that in confrontations with aggressive, drunk or drug-affected passengers the drivers had been made to feel like the offenders.

This story was found at:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New Company Formed from Integrian Assets

Integrian, the Morrisville maker of digital-video equipment that went out of business last month, has been revived from the ashes.
A company formed by upstate New York business executive James T. Matthews announced today that it has purchased the assets of Integrian, including its intellectual property.

The new company, Digital Safety Technologies, has rehired about 55 former Integrian employees.

"We are going to step in here and salvage jobs for ... people in this area," said Roger Lucas, president of the new venture, now called Digital Safety Technology. He is the former vice president of operation for Visara International, formerly known as Memorex Telex.

Integrian had 80 or so employees who were laid off late last month when banks that were owed money took control of the business, Lucas said.

"They had liens against all the assets and the intellectual property," he said.

Integrian produced digital-video equipment for police cruisers and transit systems. Founded in 1999, it raised about $60 million in funding from investors that included venture capital firms Intersouth Partners of Durham and Wakefield Group, which has an office in Chapel Hill.

Lucas declined to disclose the price paid for Integrian's assets but said "it's not anywhere near" $60 million.

Digital Safety will continue to produce video equipment for law enforcement agencies, but not for transit systems.

Lucas said the company won't pursue the transit market because there are "many problems" with Integrian's product.

He acknowledged that Integrian's police systems have had their problems, as well, but said Integrian had hired a new engineering department about six months ago that has resolved those issues.

"We are confident that the product going forward will be much better than in the past," he said.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Police and School Bus Drivers Work Together - "The video camera system has kept up with the number of complaints and citations continuing to roll in"

DANVILLE — More than one driver was schooled this year as part of a new program to keep students safe around school buses.

First Student bus service has implemented a video camera system on its buses for this school year, working with city police to take a stand against reckless drivers who ignore bus stop arms. Officer Tim Kentner coordinated the effort in which police conducted follow-up investigations based on car and motorist descriptions as well as license plate numbers reported by bus driv-ers.

Kentner said he has received 59 complaints of school bus law violations during the current school semester, making it 95 total complaints since January when the program began.

Of those, 44 citations were issued to drivers for passing school buses. Revoked or suspended driver’s license citations were issued in only a couple cases.

Just this week, citations were issued for passing school buses on Nov. 13 in the 1600 block of East Fairchild Street and Dec. 1 at Sager and Buchanan streets.

“It’s still pretty steady,” Kentner said. “DHS is one of our biggest problem areas.”

The video camera system has kept up with the number of complaints and citations continuing to roll in. Ami Sprague, safety coordinator for First Student, said the violations “continue to be a really bad problem,” and noted the company has had weekly and sometimes daily contacts with Kentner because of the number of violations.

She added a number of the bus drivers have been called to court for their testimony, showing that the citations are progressing through the court system.

“If we could stop the violations it’d be even better,” Sprague said.

With the new system, the video cameras switch on as soon as the stop arm for the bus is extended. The camera catches the vehicle’s license plate as it passes the bus. First Student drivers are trained to watch their mirrors, looking for a vehicle that may pass the bus before giving students the OK to cross the street.

In cases where a vehicle goes through the bus stop sign, drivers radio in the violation and vehicle information. A report is later filed with Kentner and video of the incident is downloaded and stored for any court matters.

The program isn’t just focused on motorists. Kentner said he has also offered suggestions to the bus drivers, relaying what the cited motorists say about them.

“It’s resolved a couple issues about how or when to put out the stop arm,” Kentner said.

Drivers who are convicted of a stop arm violation face a stiff penalty. A first offender will receive a fine of $150 while a second offense earns the motorists a $500 fine. Drivers also face a three-month suspension of their license.

Laws became stiffer for violators as of this year. A vehicle owner who won’t reveal who was driving the vehicle at the time of the violation can receive a three-month license suspension as well.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Police Car Video 'Accurately Shows What Happened'

The man shot by police Sunday at a local public housing complex died tonight.

Justin Leonard Elmore was taken off life support by his family, according to a cousin who was at Medical College of Georgia Hospital when he passed away. Brenda Givens said the family made the decision after doctors determined he was brain dead.

“Everybody is having a hard time with it,” she said between sobs during a phone call from the hospital.

Ms. Givens said the family continues to believe the shooting was uncalled for.

“It ain’t right,” she said. “This was some wrong stuff that happened.”

News of Mr. Elmore’s death spread quickly and a candlelight vigil was organized at the site of Sunday’s altercation near the Cherry Tree Crossing housing complex.

Police said Mr. Elmore was shot Sunday afternoon when he tried to drive his SUV over deputies attempting to stop him on suspected drug charges. The incident at Carver Drive and 15th Street brought up to 200 people into the street, and many began throwing rocks and bottles at police and setting trash in dumpsters afire.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday it has a police car video of the incident but won’t make it public until it concludes its investigation into the shooting.

GBI Special Agent Gary Nicholson said the video is considered evidence in the investigation of the deputies to determine if they were justified in shooting Mr. Elmore.

“We have looked at them in detail,” Agent Nicholson said. “We cannot release them but they have been entered as evidence in this case and as such they are not available for public record at this point in the investigation.”

On Monday, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said the video appears to show that his officers, Jose Rivera Ortiz and Michael Hodge, acted appropriately in shooting a man who tried to ram Deputy Ortiz with his SUV. Agent Nicholson said he has watched video from both deputies’ patrol cars and that they “accurately show what happened.”

This comes as deputies dealt with another night of violence in Augusta’s Cherry Tree Crossing housing project. On Monday night, a deputy’s patrol car was hit with a bullet. The incident appeared isolated, however, and police said the area has been generally quiet since Sunday when an angry crowd of as many as 200 lobbed rocks and bottles at police following the shooting of a 23-year-old fleeing drug suspect.

According to sheriff’s reports, Cpl. Charles Benson was patrolling in the 1600 block of McCauley Street at 11:30 p.m. when he heard five or six gunshots. The deputy then heard a thump in the rear of his vehicle where a bullet struck the license plate, the report said.

The Sheriff’s Office along with Georgia State Patrol troopers, increased their presence in the area

The two deputies have been placed on administrative duty pending a GBI review of the case.

Anyone with who witnessed the incident is asked to call the GBI at (706) 595-2575.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New York MTA Bus Cameras On Hold

Despite this month's on-duty death of one bus driver and assaults on two others, the MTA conceded yesterday its plan to fit every bus with a security camera has come to a grinding halt.

North Carolina-based Integrian has gone out of business, and its security system had "all kinds of issues," according to Joseph Smith, a vice president in the MTA's bus department.

In 2006, the MTA said it planned to outfit 400 buses with the cameras as a way to reduce crime and help in law-enforcement investigations.

To date, just 272 of those buses have been equipped, and almost all operate in Manhattan.

The stall couldn't have come at a worse time.

On Dec. 1, Brooklyn bus driver Edwin Thomas was stabbed to death over a free transfer. Nine days later, a Queens bus passenger used a piece of glass to cut a driver's hand while stealing her diamond ring. Last week, another bus driver was robbed at knifepoint.

Smith said yesterday the MTA was "looking at" partitions to keep exposed bus drivers safe. And today, a joint committee of MTA and union officials will talk about potential solutions to the recent violence.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

March Networks Plans Layoffs on Global Recession Concerns.

March Networks is planning more layoffs as a safeguard against a global recession undercutting its growth plans.

The Ottawa maker of digital surveillance equipment said yesterday that it is shutting a software development operation in Scottsdale, Arizona, and consolidating operations here. The cuts at the former Trax Retail Solutions acquisition will reduce the number of employees by seven per cent to to 275. Some new jobs will be created in Ottawa.

March cut about 20 other jobs, primarily in Ottawa, during the summer. It also ended contracts of product developers in India.

March said yesterday that losses jumped 53 per cent in the second quarter, ending in October, due to $1.4 million in costs related to layoffs and other restructuring. March lost $1.02 million compared to a loss of $666,000 a year earlier.

But sales rose two per cent to a record of $28.3 million in the quarter, compared to both a year earlier and the preceding quarter.

It got a push of $1.6 million from a foreign exchange gain. The sales beat analyst expectations by $2 million.

The stock rose eight cents to $2.11 following the release of results. It has dropped 79 per cent this year.

March said that there is no evidence that customers are cancelling or postponing plans for new surveillance equipment despite the global credit crisis which started in U.S. banks, a major customer.

It said that many of its financial services customers are outside the U.S., including new contracts in Mexico and another in Latin America worth more than $6 million.

In addition, it said that retailers are likely to keep buying the gear because hard times can lead to higher rates of theft and internal losses.

"All indications are that the security industry should be relatively strong," said CEO Peter Strom.

March reaffirmed earlier guidance for sales of $100 million to $115 million and operating earnings of $500,000 to $5 million in the fiscal year that ends next April.

That implies a sales gain of six per cent to 22 per cent and a significant improvement over operating losses of $7 million in the previous fiscal year.

The company said it generated operating earnings of $1 million, the first positive results in five quarters and an improvement compared to a loss of $1 million a year earlier.

March ran into trouble in the last two years as it struggled with falling sales from Wal-Mart, its biggest customer.

Wal-Mart is still the company's biggest customer, generating 11 per cent of sales in the quarter and 14 per cent in the first half. But that is a far cry from when the retail giant produced as much as 50 per cent in some quarters.

With Wal-Mart now using other suppliers, March predicts that the retailer will account for less than 10 per cent of revenues for the full year.

Excluding Wal-Mart and Cieffe, a recent European acquisition which generated $9 million in sales in six months, March said that revenues were 40 per cent higher in the second quarter compared to a year earlier.

Integrian Sold, CEO Leaves, 30 People Laid Off

Morrisville, N.C. — Venture-backed Integrian, which is focused on mobile video technology, has been sold to one of its equipment suppliers, sources tell WRAL Local Tech Wire.

As a result of the deal, which is expected to close this week, some 30 of the company’s 70 employees are being laid off.

The buyer is Catalyst, a New York-based company with operations in the Triangle and in Mexico. Catalyst makes the high-tech gear for Integrian.

Chief Executive Officer Pete Durand also has left Integrian along with some top vice presidents, according to the sources who asked not to be identified. One source is a company insider with intimate knowledge of what occurred.

Durand left the company on Tuesday and is pursuing other opportunities, the sources said.

Company officials this week have remained closemouthed about the deal despite requests for comment. A formal announcement is expected Thursday.

Matt Mikula, who had been vice president of operations, has taken the CEO spot, according to the sources.

Integrian raised some $50 million in venture capital and was backed by Triangle-area VC firms Intersouth and Wakefield Group. Motorola also was an investor. Credit Suisse was part of a financial syndicate that helped Integrian raise $36 million in capital, $30 million of which was spent to acquire an Australian firm.

Local Tech Wire reported on Nov. 14 that Integrian was seeking a buyer. At that time, Durand denied rumors that the company was about to shut down.

“We have a lot of people looking to acquire this business,” Durand said. “I’m in discussions on the merger-and-acquisition front. We definitely have people trying to buy the company.”

Durand dismissed any talk that the company might close.

“We’re not shutting our doors today,” he said. “That is not something we have discussed right now.”

Integrian recently did convert $14.8 million from debt to equity in the firm as part of a restructuring, Durand added.

PricewaterhouseCoopers reported in its most recent “MoneyTree” venture survey that Integrian had raised that amount in new financing.

“There wasn’t new funding,” Durand said. “We converted a bridge [financing] note.”

Integrian has raised more than $60 million, including the debt conversion, from investors since it launched in 1999. Intersouth, which is based in Durham, and Wakefield Group in Chapel Hill are Integrian backers along with Polaris Ventures, Motorola and Credit Suisse.

The firm raised more than $14 million in venture capital before making a big acquisition move in 2005 that didn’t work out.

The Australian firm, Innovonics, concentrated on technology for video surveillance in environments such as railroad stations. Integrian shut down that part of the business last November and cut its head count by about half.

Integrian also acquired two other companies over the past three years, Signal Innovations Group in RTP and Digital Safety Technologies.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Police Say School Bus Driver Braked to Topple Student

A school bus driver in the Ambridge Area district will be charged with endangering a 10-year-old boy for intentionally braking the bus suddenly so the boy would fall, police said.

The driver was upset because the boy would not remain in his seat, Harmony Township police Sgt. Jim Essek said. The driver told the boy to stop moving around before allegedly threatening him by saying, "If you do it again, I'll knock you down," Essek said.

When the fourth-grader moved around again, the bus driver hit the brakes.

The incident happened Tuesday in the Ambridge Area School District. Police Chief Jack Lively said police will not release the driver's identity until charges are filed, likely by Monday.

Police have seized a surveillance video from the bus. The boy was knocked to the floor out of camera view, but is seen getting up holding his face. Other students are knocked around and one is flipped over a seat.

The driver and the boy have had run-ins before, parents said.

The boy's mother claimed he was "singled out" for discipline when students got rowdy in the past and asked school officials to have someone monitor the bus. Lively said the monitor was on the bus Tuesday, but didn't get out of his seat to intervene.

School officials said they are reviewing the incident.

Agencies warn of possible plot against NYC transit system