Friday, January 28, 2011

WTA On-Board Camera Recorded Bus Driver Talking to Passenger about Sex Act

Audio and video surveillance on a Whatcom Transportation Authority bus recorded the driver, a former Lynden city councilman, allegedly offering that his friend would pay $50 to perform fellatio on a passenger in December.
The driver, Jay Van Lant, 57, was charged in Whatcom County Superior Court Thursday, Jan. 20, with one count of second-degree promoting prostitution, which is a class C felony in Washington.

His arraignment, where he enters a not-guilty plea and has a trial date set, is scheduled for Friday.

Van Lant was fired from the WTA after the passenger, a 32-year-old man, told another WTA staff member about the incident, which occurred Dec. 14.

Van Lant also was employed as a part-time school bus driver with the Lynden Christian Schools. Superintendent Don Kok said last week that Van Lant has been put on administrative leave.

According to charging documents filed in Superior Court:

The passenger was alone with Van Lant when he made the offer. Van Lant told police the passenger was a regular rider on his bus route.

The passenger had taken the bus earlier to get to a work site where he thought he could get work as a roofer, but it fell through so he got back on the bus, which was driven by Van Lant.

The passenger told police that as they were talking, Van Lant mentioned that he had a break coming up soon and offered to take the passenger to coffee so they could discuss job opportunities.

Van Lant then told the passenger about how his friend, who he said is gay but prefers straight men, would pay money to perform fellatio on him.

According to a transcript of the conversation, Van Lant said, "He brings you to his house and brings you back ... 50 bucks is 50 bucks."

When interviewed by a Bellingham police detective in January, Van Lant admitted to making the offer.

Read more:

Bus Video Convinces Lawyer to Drop Case Against Boston Transit

The personal-injury lawyer for one rider who filed suit after a T bus fender-bender now is backing away from his client.

“We are dropping the case,” attorney Timothy Roche of Dane Shulman Associates said yesterday after viewing MBTA video footage apparently showing his client and several other passengers barely flinching as a Route 28 bus is sideswiped by a car Nov. 27 in Roxbury.

The Herald in a front-page story Friday reported that T General Manager Richard Davey, battling a surge in claims and costly payouts, is cracking down on fraudulent lawsuits by using surveillance cameras installed in buses to target riders faking injuries in minor fender-benders.

In one video provided to the Herald, several men who appear unharmed after the car hits the bus are seen smiling, talking on cell phones and then flopping onto the floor and seats in unison.

Roche filed a notice of claim against the MBTA on Dec. 21 on behalf of his client, who the claim said suffered “neck, back, eye, shoulder” injuries in the Nov. 27 bus accident. The client did not return a message left yesterday by the Herald.

But her attorney said after examining the video and identifying his client, he concluded she was not injured.

“Unfortunate as the video is for the others and my client, we did what we were supposed to in terms of screening the case,” Roche said, adding that he relied on his client’s word and a police report indicating she and five other passengers were taken by ambulance to local hospitals.

“Justice prevails,” Davey said yesterday when told the attorney was jettisoning the case.

Last week, Roche had said he didn’t think the bus camera videos would be a deterrent against phony claims, citing the MBTA’s tough stance against bus injury claims as deterrent enough.

But yesterday he had a change of heart.

“Honestly, that’s a lot of wasted time,” he said of the paperwork in the case. “I am not unhappy that they have those videos because it makes my life easier. If somebody wants to come in and tell me a story, I’ll say ‘You better be telling me the truth, because they are going to have a video of you if this happened or didn’t happen.’ ”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Extra Set of Eyes for Bus Drivers

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lincoln NB Vicious Bus Fight - Crimestoppers Video

Thursday, January 13, 2011

CTA Cameras To Keep An Eye on Safety

CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago Transit Authority will soon be keeping a closer eye on you, and your safety, if you ride the ‘L.’

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, new high-definition cameras will be installed in many train cars. So if you have ever felt nervous about pickpockets or other criminals hanging out on the train or at ‘L’ and subway stations, this will be good news for you.

The CTA will install more security cameras in almost all of its trains now in service. This spring, it plans to equip half of its rail car fleet, and if all goes well, the rest of the trains could get the cameras later in the year.

When the process is complete, the security cameras will be installed on all but CTA’s oldest group of rapid transit cars, built in 1969-70. Those cars, numbered in the 2200 series, are to be retired beginning later this year with the arrival of new rapid transit cars, which come camera-equipped.

The CTA says the cameras have resolution so high that they can identify what commuters are reading while standing on the platform.

CTA’s Chief Safety and Security officer, Amy Kovalan, said Wednesday that if the installation works as planned, the transit agency has a “verbal agreement” from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to pay for installation of cameras on the rest of CTA’s rapid transit fleet.

The CTA received about $22 million to expand camera coverage on its rail system.

Eventually, the cameras will be linked to the CTA Control Center, where someone will be monitoring the trains.

Kovalan said a Homeland Security grant also will pay for improved security in its rapid transit yards, to make trespassing or sabotage less likely. Federal stimulus money is being used to install new-generation security cameras in CTA’s subway tunnels.

CTA President Ricahrd Rodriguez said Wednesday that the new-generation high definition cameras can show clearly what riders are reading on platforms.

“Five of the HD cameras might give better coverage than 20 of the older cameras,” he said.

While some riders are a little leery about being watched on security cameras, many said their primary concern is safety, particularly in the overnight hours.

One rider at the Fullerton Red-Brown-Purple Line station near DePaul University said he feels “pretty safe” on the ‘L,’ but as to the cameras, “I think it’s a good thing; always, the more cameras, theoretically, the safer we’re supposed to be.”

Another rider said earlier that low-tech solutions can work just as well.

“I think even pulling up to a stop and saying, ‘Hey everybody, there’s been some pickpockets here. Beware of your stuff,’ would be enough,” said Richard Osborn, whose teenage daughter recent had an iPod stolen from her at the Sedgwick Brown Line stop.

Osborn said CTA personnel advised him that iPod and iPhone thefts have been common recently on the Brown Line from Sedgwick south.

The CTA hopes the new cameras will make commuters feel safer at all times of the day, and make it easier to arrest and prosecute those who commit crimes on CTA property.

Board Approves Installation of Bus Cameras

Jackson TWP, Ohio — The Jackson Township School Board of Education approved the installation of digital cameras and DVRs on all buses and school vans at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010. The cameras will provide three views of a bus or van, front, rear, and stairwell as well as track the speed of the bus.

Each camera has enough storage to record up to two weeks and then the recordings can be moved to alternate storage for longer archival. The Board approved the purchase of 90 cameras for a total of $121,045. The cameras will be purchased and installed over the holiday break.

“The cameras will be beneficial to resolving issues that come up regarding the buses, help with professional development for the drivers and service the community by helping resolve bus driver issues,” said Christopher DiLoreto, assistant superintendent of Jackson Schools.

Vicious Fight on Startran Bus Caught on Camera - Lincoln NB

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

San Francisco Tries Street Sweeper Cameras to Issue Parking Tickets

The Municipal Transportation Agency's latest victim of its budget crisis: drivers.

San Francisco's transit agency is asking parking control to write even more parking tickets for drivers around town. The agency is disappointed that its budgeted $99 million in parking ticket revenue has fallen by $7 million.

The Chronicle gives the breakdown of the MTA's next targets, which include residential parking permit holders, and drivers who take advantage of broken meters.

Drivers also might not get the 10-minute grace period at tow-away zones; instead of waiting until 7:10 a.m. to start writing tickets, parking control officers will go ahead and slap a ticket at the 7 a.m. start time.

If there is any silver lining to this it is that the parking control department is short 20 employees, which means there will be 20 fewer enforcers roving the streets looking for violations.

As part of a pilot program, street-sweeping vehicles will soon have surveillance cameras attached to the front of them to record images of license plates that are blocking the way. Drivers will get those tickets in the mail. The fine: $55.

For you early-morning commuters, the agency wants drivers to pay full price to park at public and private garages -- no more early bird discounts.

So it seems the city is accomplishing its transit-first goal, to get more drivers on public transportation. Of course, it won't be long until Muni passengers take a hit.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Privacy Concerns Delay Cameras on Buses

You should practise smiling on the bus — Grand River Transit still intends to install surveillance cameras on its buses, later this year.

The cameras, now common in transit systems, are meant to deter crime and enhance security. But the transit service has delayed activating them, after critics complained that regional council never consulted the public and has no surveillance policy, saying who can view recordings and how long images are kept.

Following guidelines from Ontario’s privacy commissioner, the transit service will hold consultations and draft policies “in recognition of the concerns that are being brought forward around privacy,” director Eric Gillespie said.

“They’re now proposing public consultation, somewhat after the fact,” said Coun. Sean Strickland, an opponent of cameras on buses. “But at least the public consultation is going to take place.”

“It’s unfortunate that this hasn’t happened earlier and that we’re just getting to this stage so late in the process,” said transit passenger Kate Daley, of Waterloo. “I think it’s still important to do those consultations.”

Daley complained to council about its failure to consult and develop clear policies. She’s concerned that people not become complacent about surveillance.

Local taxpayers are spending $1.4 million to equip buses with cameras. Council approved them in part after the federal government helped pay for a secret report on transit security risks.

Local transit terminals already aim cameras at public areas. Drivers expect bus cameras, which will not be aimed at them, will dissuade passengers from harassing drivers and will help investigators find culprits.

“I’m mind-boggled by the privacy concerns, quite frankly,” said union chief Rick Lonergan, who represents drivers with the Canadian Auto Workers. He’s frustrated by the delay and points out cameras are everywhere.

Strickland accepts that surveillance is widespread but is not persuaded buses need cameras.

“If I get on a bus, and I’m paying my fee, and I’m riding the bus, and I’m getting photographed by a camera, my first inclination is, why does some government, some person somewhere, need to take my picture when I’m going about my business riding a bus?” he said.

“I think we need to put in place stringent guidelines around how private information is taken, obtained, stored and used by governments.”

Gillespie said the transit service intends to develop policies in line with provincial guidelines. These include erasing recorded information within 72 hours, if it has not been viewed for law enforcement or public safety reasons.

“I think it’s critical to have those policies in place before the cameras go live,” said Brian Beamish, an assistant commissioner with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

Commissioner Ann Cavoukian has said cameras on buses are OK if the case is made that they enhance security and they operate in a way that respects privacy.

Nonfunctioning cameras installed on 15 buses will not be activated for now, Gillespie said. He expects cameras could start recording in the spring, after consultations in the coming months. “We’re still very committed to the plan,” he said.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Agency Receives Transit Security Grant to Install Bus Cameras