Monday, September 27, 2010

Mississauga Transit Buses to Get New Security Cameras

City councillors endorsed a draft policy yesterday that will see all Mississauga Transit buses equipped with security cameras by the end of 2011.
The first to sport the devices will be newly-branded MiWay buses due to start hitting the road next month.
“Video/audio surveillance has become common in the transit industry,” Martin Powell, the City of Mississauga’s commissioner of transportation and works, told General Committee. “The systems, when utilized with other security measures, have become an effective means of ensuring transit safety and security.”
Although it’s a first for Mississauga, neighbouring municipalities such as Brampton and Toronto have already had the devices installed, Powell noted. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) alone has some 12,000 cameras across its bus, subway and streetcar network since mid-2009.
In addition to the 57 newly-acquired buses, Mississauga's entire existing fleet, starting next spring, will be retrofitted to include the security cameras. Staff anticipate the job to be completed by the end of next year.
Video cameras have already been installed at the City Centre and Westwood Mall bus terminals.
City officials believe they’re long overdue. Ward 8 Councillor Katie Mahoney says the need was brought up recently when she knocked on the door of a Mississauga Transit driver while canvassing for the Oct. 25 election.
“(His wife) had a lot to say about it, and I agreed with her that many of our drivers get abused, get spit upon, that sort of thing,” she said.
Mayor Hazel McCallion has long called for more protection for drivers.
“It’s amazing what happens when people get on a bus in the morning upset about something. They take it out on the drivers. (Drivers) are seeking support – there’s no question about it,” said McCallion, noting incidents are escalating.
“Years ago, you would never dream of somebody abusing or assaulting a driver. But that’s not the case today. Look at what’s happening in Toronto. So we must take the necessary actions to protect our drivers.”
Last week, a man was charged with trying to kill a TTC driver after becoming embroiled in a fare dispute. The knifing was captured by a security camera.
Powell says Mississauga’s draft policy complies with recommendations to the TTC made by Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian in 2008. Among her 13 recommendations were specific steps that the TTC must take to protect the privacy rights of its riders. Once they were implemented, she gave the green light to the measures.
“Mass transit systems like the TTC, that are required to move large volumes of people, in confined spaces, on a daily basis, give rise to unique safety and security issues for the general public and operators of the system,” she said.
Like the TTC’s, Mississauga’s draft policy ensures that personal information will only be collected for legitimate, limited and specific purposes, says Powell.
“The cameras will be positioned in the interior of the bus and will only record video and audio data captured in the interior of the vehicle,” he said. “Recorded data will be stored in a secure manner on the bus, where it will remain for a maximum of 24 vehicle operating hours, and then will be recorded over and destroyed.”