Passengers riding one of Boston’s 60 new hybrid buses may be under constant watch thanks to a multi-million dollar grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
According to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, video surveillance systems inside the city’s new fleet of diesel-electric hybrid buses, which began their first shifts Wednesday, will work to protect the safety of Transit Police.
“It’s about officer safety—that’s first and foremost,” MBTA Deputy Chief of Investigative Services Kenneth Sprague told Boston Magazine. “Some of the calls we get are in regards to a person with a gun or a knife, or a fight in progress on the bus. This technology will allow officers to see what they’re getting themselves involved in before boarding the vehicle.”
The surveillance systems’ “Live Look In” feature will allow the MBTA’s headquarters and individual patrol cars to access video from any bus in real-time. Screens at the front of each bus will allegedly show riders where their cameras are currently aimed.
“This is the newest technology out there, as far as being able to access the cameras on the bus,” he said. “[Officers] can punch up the cameras, and then actually see what’s going on.”
Sprague also argued that the mere sight of cameras would deter unwanted behavior from would-be troublemakers on board.
“I think it certainly benefits the public, because for most people if they were going to commit a crime on a bus with cameras, we would hope they would think twice about that,” Sprague said.
Although the city alleges that the new system will lead to a decrease in criminal activity, multiple studies suggest that the cameras will have no effect at all.
Regardless, Boston now joins countless other cities across the country that have begun outfitting public transportation vehicles with surveillance systems.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced its plan to install several thousand audio and video recorders on its commuter trains last March after claims that it would improve railway safety.
The Maryland Transit Administration also began recording the conversations of bus drivers and passengers in 2012 in order to “assist with criminal investigations.”