Halifax City Council Awards Metro Transit Security Camera Contract to Nova Communications

Council awards $1.28m tender to Dartmouth firm

By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER City Hall Reporter

Metro Transit’s 200 buses are about to be fitted with security cameras.

But don’t expect a transit police force any time soon.

At council’s regular meeting Tuesday night, councillors voted to award a $1.28-million tender to Nova Communications of Dartmouth to install cameras in all buses. The tender also includes provisions to outfit buses with microphones and panic buttons for drivers.

Metro Transit had been planning to phase in cameras over the next five years but stepped up the timeline in the wake of serious assaults on drivers over the past 18 months. Most recently, a passenger groped a female driver after midnight one night this summer on the No. 20 bus, which goes to Herring Cove.

In light of the assaults – and the stabbing death of a passenger on a Greyhound bus in Western Canada this summer – a few councillors asked if Metro Transit was planning to institute other security measures.

“I recognize that, when the nasty incident that occurred on the Greyhound bus crossing Canada, there was talk of physical protection for drivers,” said Coun. Sheila Fougere (Connaught-Quinpool).

“Have we looked at that?”

Security barriers between drivers and passengers can limit a driver’s options if he or she is trapped on a bus, said Metro Transit’s manager of service delivery.

“It hampers the operator from being able to extricate themselves from a situation,” Erin Flaim said.

Coun. Harry McInroy (Cole Harbour) had asked staff to look into the possibility of hiring a special transit security force, much like the air marshal service for planes. But a staff report written for council’s Tuesday meeting said such a service would likely cost about $1.2 million in its first year of operation.

As well, the special force wouldn’t be “easily achieved without significant resource realignment and multi-jurisdictional co-operation,” the report outlined.

One councillor said help could be close at hand.

Coun. David Hendsbee (Preston-Lawrencetown-Chezzetcook) thought the Guardian Angels – a recently set-up group of citizen volunteers who patrol certain areas of Halifax – might be tapped for their potential.

“Perhaps they’d be allowed to do patrol service for an honorarium,” he said. “I’m sure they do it in other jurisdictions, so hopefully they won’t be excluded if the time should come and they’re still in operation.”

In the end, council voted to research, develop and implement a transit bylaw to improve security for transit employees and passengers.

Other initiatives are already in the works, including a formal security audit, security awareness training, an ID program and improved vehicle location through a GPS system.

Read the story at The Chronicle Herald