Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Las Vegas Transit Wireless Bus Security Camera System

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Future Video Analytics, Video Integrations, and Stop Arms for School Bus Cameras

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Officials Refuse to Release School Bus Video

After his bus pulled away from the East Rock Global Magnet School, a first-grade boy whipped out a pocketknife and started slashing the seat, school officials said.

The knife was confiscated and the boy disciplined, according to school officials, who did not notify parents of the incident immediately.

The bus ride was captured on videotape, which was not released to parents or the press.

The incident Tuesday afternoon sent one distraught mother scrambling for answers after her young daughter gave a harrowing rendition of what happened on the bus. Another parent said the incident pointed to a larger issue of “out-of-control” behavior on the bus, where the only adult is at the steering wheel.

Catina Hicks learned of the incident when her distressed 7-year-old daughter called her at work Tuesday afternoon. Her daughter reported that a boy on the bus had threatened several students with a knife. This story was later refuted by the school system.

“I heard it was to my son’s throat,” Hicks fumed Tuesday night. Her son is in kindergarten. She said she was disturbed and outraged at her daughter’s story. She was equally outraged that school officials failed to call parents to let them know what had happened, she said.

“How does something like this happen and no one calls me?” she asked.

Officials at the K-8 school on Nash Street waited until Wednesday to contact parents through a letter.

Michelle Wade, spokeswoman for the city school system, reviewed the videotape with other school officials on Wednesday morning. She said the story Hicks heard from her daughter does not match up with the footage from the incident, which shows no threatening behavior.

Ride Interrupted

Here’s what happened, according to Wade:

The bus left the school around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, carrying about two dozen young pupils, most of them in kindergarten to second grade.

Before the bus got to its first stop, a first-grade boy pulled out a pocketknife and slashed the back of a seat. Kids alerted the driver that the boy had a knife. The driver stopped the bus. She demanded the knife. Another child brought it to her. The driver then turned the bus around and headed back to the school, where the principal met the bus.

The principal, Michael Conte, Jr., got on board. When he asked the kids what had happened, they blurted out answers all at once. Conte calmed them down and got the story. He learned about the seat-cutting and knife confiscation.

“There was nothing mentioned at all about any threatening movements or action,” Wade said. “What [Conte] heard from the children didn’t appear in any way to be something that would be upsetting.”

The bus set out again on its regular route. All the students, including the one who officials said had used the knife, remained on the bus.

The student was disciplined for bringing a knife to school, according to the letter Conte sent home to parents. Because of the student’s age, no police investigation was initiated, Wade said.

How did the kid get the knife?

“That’s a good question,” Wade said. East Rock Global Magnet School, which serves grades K-8, is not equipped with the metal detectors and wands that high schools use to screen for weapons.


After the bus got back on its route, Hicks’ son and daughter were dropped off at a daycare center in the West River neighborhood. They were “visibly upset,” according to Natasha Smith, who runs the facility. Asked what was wrong, Hicks’ daughter reported that her brother and two girls were all threatened with a knife on the bus.

Another staff member told the daughter to call her mom at work. Hicks, a single mother, rushed back from her job in Stamford to pick up her kids. They were “shaken,” she said. She listened to their story. Between dialing public officials to try to get some answers, she tried to stay calm and pacify her kids.

“Violence occurs. This is part of their current reality,” she said. However, she expected a certain level of security on the bus.

“I pay taxes and I can’t even get a safe bus ride?” Hicks fumed.

In the very least, Hicks said the school should have called parents to let them know about the incident, which she said was traumatic for her children.

Wade countered that there was no visible sign of any such trauma.

“We saw the whole video,” Wade said. “There did not appear to be any children that were distraught or concerned or upset. There was quite a bit of animation and frivolity and jumping.”

Hicks also challenged school officials’ decision to put the kids back on the bus route, instead of holding them at school and calling parents to pick them up.

“That was a judgment call,” responded Wade. “Maybe in hindsight, someone would do something different next time, but … there did not seem to be any concern for anyone’s safety.”

Nicol Jones, a spokeswoman for the bus company, First Student Inc., said the driver followed company protocol. “The policy is to return to the school, resolve the incident and make sure that the kids return home in a timely manner.”

She said the driver made sure the kids were OK before proceeding. “We’re always very conscious of incidents of a traumatic nature.”

School officials refused to show the video to the Independent, saying it is property of the bus company, which is hired on a contract with the public schools. The company refused to release the tape.

“It’s not releasable because it’s part of an investigation,” Jones said. The investigation she referred to was internal, not involving police.

Informed Wednesday that the tape showed no signs of any threatening, Hicks asked to see the tape herself. The school system referred her to the bus company, which declined to show it to her, according to the family.

“Out of Control”

Smith, who runs Precious Gift Childcare on Mead Street, said the incident was not unusual, except, of course, for the knife.

It’s normal for kids to arrive at the daycare complaining of hitting and fighting on the bus, Smith said. One factor is that young and older students are mixed together, she said. Another is that there are no adults on board except the bus driver.

New Haven Public Schools provide bus monitors only for special-needs buses, according to Wade. In the other buses, the driver is the only adult.

tasha%20smith%20hands%20up.JPGMelinda Tuhus File Photo“It’s a problem: Hitting, out-of-control behavior,” said Smith (pictured). Often, parents are not contacted right away, she said, and when there’s a videotape to be reviewed, parents are often not given access.

Smith is a member of the parent advocacy group Teach our Children. She criticized the school system for putting children at risk.

“There should at all times be another adult on the bus,” she argued, “because bus drivers can’t possibly deal with the issues that come up and drive at the same time.”

“It’s just not safe,” she said. “The kids are the ones who pay for it because they’re not being supervised properly. Their safety is at risk.”

Wade was asked to respond to Smith’s call for more adult supervision.

“It’s a point well-taken,” Wade said. The issue comes down to a question of resources, she said.

Meanwhile, Hicks said the incident has cast serious doubts over her children’s safety on their way home from school.

“I don’t plan on putting them back on the bus again,” the mother said.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Taxi Company Plans to Install Cameras into Cabs

A cab company in Waterloo Region plans to install surveillance cameras after a man with a "military-style" knife robbed three drivers.

City Cabs drivers were hit three times in the past week. The latest robbery occurred Monday just before 10 p.m. when a driver picked up a man at Fairview Park mall and drove him to a mall on Frederick Street.

The other robberies happened overnight last Wednesday -- one on Frederick Street and one on Westwood Drive. In each case, the drivers picked up a man at one location and drove him to another, where they were threatened and robbed.

No one was hurt in any of the incidents, but in each case, the robber had a knife and got away with cash. Waterloo regional police believe the same suspect is connected to all three robberies.

Tihomir Popovic, a manager at City Cabs, said the robber in all three cases pretended to reach for his wallet but instead pulled out a "large, military-style" knife as he demanded money. The robber also took the drivers' keys so they couldn't chase him down.

"We're telling them, 'Don't be a hero, just give him your money,' " Popovic said.

He added his drivers are worried and "want protection."

Popovic said he will begin installing video surveillance cameras in taxis this weekend. As well, drivers will only carry $50 at a time in their cars.

Erecting screens between the back and front seats is also an option, although not one Popovic prefers.

"We drive people. We don't drive animals,"he said. "If you put in a screen you don't have that personal contact with them (passengers)."

Dan Sibley, manager for Golden Triangle Taxi in Cambridge, said several of his cars already have cameras "for the drivers' protection."

One of his drivers tried using a protective screen but took it down shortly after because it "keeps you separate from the customers," Sibley said.

More people got away without paying because they felt the driver couldn't easily get to them. Cameras are more effective, Sibley said.

"People tend not to run or do anything that can incriminate them."

Dave Byers, manager of United Taxi, said many of his cars also have surveillance cameras, some so small they're hidden in rear-view mirrors.

"It's a deterrent," he said. "If they get into a cab and see a sticker that says the car has video surveillance they won't do anything. If they do, they're foolish."


School Bus Camera Catches Brutal Attack on Driver

KALAMAZOO TOWNSHIP -- Prosecutors have authorized an assault charge against a 16-year-old Kalamazoo boy accused of repeatedly beating a Kalamazoo Public Schools substitute school bus driver Tuesday, authorities said.

The teen, whose name has not been released, is charged as a juvenile with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Karen Hayter said Wednesday. The boy, who was being lodged at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home, is scheduled to appear April 3 in the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Family Division for a pretrial hearing.

Meanwhile, the bus driver, a 37-year-old Kalamazoo woman whose name also has not been released, was treated at Bronson Methodist Hospital for a broken finger and bruising, cuts and scrapes to her face and head, Kalamazoo Township Police Chief Tim Bourgeois said. The woman was released from the hospital Tuesday night, the chief said.

Police said the incident occurred at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday on Brook Drive near Gull Road as the bus driver was taking students from the juvenile home's school and Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency's Valley Center School, a facility that educates students who've shown emotional or behavioral problems. Police allege that during the trip the teen, a student at Valley Center, began verbally threatening the driver from the back of the bus, and she pulled over.

The teen, who police said was apparently upset with how the driver was performing her duties, went to the front of the bus after it stopped and attacked the driver, punching her in the face and head as she tried to radio for help, police said.

Police said other students on the bus twice pulled the teen off the driver before he stopped the attack. After the incident, the teen got off the bus, but officers later located him at his Kalamazoo home.

Kalamazoo Public Schools issued a statement that the bus driver involved was "a veteran driver and one chosen specifically to take substitute routes because of her ability and training. The driver was conducting her duties in accordance with all rules and requirements when this incident occurred."

The statement also said: "Kalamazoo Public Schools' transportation personnel are given professional development on an ongoing basis that includes positive-behavior-support training which incorporates training in de-escalating situations."

Contact Rex Hall Jr. at rhall-AT-kalamazoogazette.com or 388-7784.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

NTSB Considers Video Cameras on All Trains

WASHINGTON - Federal investigators raised the possibility Wednesday that video cameras could be required aboard passenger, freight and commuter trains to avoid another accident like the deadly Metrolink crash in Chatsworth last September.

Officials with an investigative panel of the National Transportation Safety Board suggested video cameras might be a way to help enforce train regulations, such as a ban on cell phone use by crew members.

"If people know they're being watched, they're going to behave differently than if they're not being watched," said Kitty Higgins, chairwoman of a safety board panel that conducted a two-day hearing on the crash.

The panel is investigating the cause of the Sept. 12 accident in which a Metrolink commuter train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth.

The accident killed 25 people, including the engineer of the Metrolink train, and injured 135 others.

Cell phone records indicate the Metrolink engineer, Robert Sanchez, had repeatedly violated the agency's policy against cell phone use in the hours leading up to the crash.

Records released by investigators show Sanchez had made four phone calls and sent or received 95 text messages the day of the accident, including 43 while he was on duty.

Sanchez's last text message - to a teenage acquaintance whom he intended to let drive the train later that night - was sent just 22 seconds before the collision.

Earlier that week, Sanchez had violated another Metrolink policy when he allowed the teen and a friend to ride along in the locomotive cab and even permitted them to operate the controls, a transcript of his text messages shows.

The conductor of the Union Pacific train also had been sending text messages while on duty the day of the crash, according to his phone records. His last message was sent just two minutes before the trains collided.

The crash led to a federal ban on cell phone use by rail workers and prompted Congress to pass a law requiring "positive train control" technology that can stop a train if it's headed for a collision.

During the hearing Wednesday, railroad officials said Sanchez's extensive text messaging illustrates the difficulty in enforcing such bans, particularly within the confines of the locomotive cab.

"If somebody is going to get out there and leave a station and start text messaging immediately, how do you know?" asked Doug Taylor, operating practices staff director of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Two union officials said that assigning a second person to the locomotive cab of every train would be a more effective way to avoid accidents.

Many trains travel with a two-person crew - the engineer, who runs the train, and a conductor, who is in charge of the train and is often in the passenger cars performing various duties.

"The fastest, most effective way in my eyes to prevent another accident like this is to have a second person in the locomotive," said J.R. Cumby, transportation safety team coordinator for the United Transportation Union.

Assigning a second person to the cab would add "a second set of eyes" and would go a long way toward preventing accidents, said William Walpert, national secretary treasurer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Both unions said they would object to video cameras in the cab unless they served a "legitimate purpose." Putting in cameras "just for the sake of having cameras" would be "overly intrusive" and would not constitute a legitimate purpose, Walpert said.

Higgins said it's too early to say whether the safety board will recommend video cameras on trains. The panel would have to weigh the benefits against other issues such as privacy, but video cameras are something the board will consider to help improve train safety, she said.

Metrolink already is in the process of fitting its trains with video cameras and expects to finish later this year.

Higgins questioned whether simply assigning a second person to the cab would make trains safer. The Union Pacific train had three crew members, including two in the first locomotive, proving there isn't always safety in numbers, she said.

"There's not a 100 percent fix to this," Cumby conceded. "Human beings are going to not comply with things from time to time. That's the nature of all of us."

A visibly frustrated Higgins said it's unacceptable to argue that train regulations are unenforceable.

"You can have all of the rules in the world, but unless they're enforced, it doesn't take long to figure out they're not worth the paper they're written on," she said.

Random tests to monitor crews' cell phone usage or the installation of technology to block use of personal electronic devices on trains are other options that should be explored, Higgins said.

"We all need to think about those families who lost people in this accident," she said. "That can't be undone. But I don't think any of us want to be back here again (after another accident) because we didn't think there was a way to implement a regulation."

Meanwhile, a Union Pacific official warned the safety panel that it would be next-to-impossible to equip all of its trains with positive train control equipment in time to meet the deadline set under the new federal law.

Positive train control uses satellite-tracking devices to monitor the speed and location of trains and can automatically stop trains that bypass signals, exceed speed limits or head toward an obstacle in the tracks.

The law, signed one month after the Chatsworth crash, requires the installation of positive train control technology on all passenger lines by 2015. Metrolink and Union Pacific have said they intend to beat the deadline and have the equipment installed on trains in the Los Angeles area by 2012.

But Jeff Young, an assistant vice president of transportation system development for Union Pacific, said he doubts that the railroad can meet either target date.

Meeting the 2015 deadline would mean that 6,000 trains would have to be fitted at a rate of 10 a day, Young said.

"It's a daunting, daunting task," he said. "I wouldn't say we could make that date - not at this time.''

The safety panel wants to complete the investigation into the Chatsworth crash and issue its final report before the one-year anniversary of the accident, Higgins said.