AC Transit increasing security through Richmond

February 11, 2011 6:01:36 PM PST
AC Transit bus drivers in the East Bay are so concerned about gun violence on one of their routes they want armed security. They say it is so dangerous, they and their passengers worry about making it home alive.

Route 376 has had five violent incidents already this year. Drivers were threatening to abandon the line until AC Transit moved the sheriff's deputies it has as part of its security force to the specific line.

"You never know who you're picking up and who you have on your bus," AC Transit driver Michele Brown said.

A single mother, Brown has worked Route 376, the same route where gunfire erupted Wednesday night, injuring one passenger with broken glass. It happened in north Richmond at the intersection of 3rd Street and Grove Avenue, where a group of young men gathered outside the bus and someone fired at it.

"I believe everybody needs to be able to get their ride, get to wherever they're going, work home or whatever, without being in the midst of violence," Brown said.

The drivers are relieved Contra Costa sheriff's deputies will be shadowing the 376 during nighttime hours, but wonder if it will last.

"I was told the offices would be put in place indefinitely, but who's to say how long that would be," Amalgamated Transit Union spokesperson Raymond Robbins said.

AC Transit is increasing security in other ways too.

"We're also having our dispatchers phone the operators on a more regular basis to try to see what's going on and we're trying to make sure that all of our busses that roll through that areas, particularly at that time are equipped with camera systems that work," AC Transit spokesperson Clarence Johnson said.

The 376 runs from the Del Norte BART station in El Cerrito to Hilltop Mall, but the focus of the sheriff's patrols will be along a one-mile stretch of north Richmond, where most of the recent problems have been.

"These little kids at night, they're crazy; they get on the bus, they look, they're trying to figure out who's got money or something," AC Transit rider Robert Jones said.

AC Transit acknowledges some of the troublesome passengers are armed.

"People who are armed kind of run the place wherever they are; in some instance they do get on our busses," Johnson said.

"It's a safety issue, you know; I might have to do the route again and I want to go home at night," AC Transit driver Jermaine Cooks said.

Last summer, AC Transit considered canceling the route altogether, but decided that would be a real blow to the law-abiding riders who depend on Route 376.


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