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N4T Investigators: Sun Tran drivers call for additional security - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Sun Tran drivers call for additional security measures following assaults

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Now into its second month, both sides in the Sun Tran strike remain at odds. Among the big sticking points are salary and benefits. Though, it's not just a question of dollars and cents. Security has also been an issue in the dispute.

Sun Tran driver, Michelle, only wants us to use her first name, a request we'll honor for her safety. She was assaulted when she tried to stand up for an elderly couple who was being accosted by an intoxicated passenger at the Laos Transit Center.

“The next thing I know, this guy is right back in front of me, and grabs my arm, and yanks it full force,” Michelle said.

Michelle was able to retreat into the safety of her bus, but that didn't stop the passenger from continuing his rampage.

“He's pounding on the doors, wanting in. Finally, he just took off, and disappeared,” Michelle said.

Even though the assailant got away, Michelle can't get away from painful reminders of the ordeal.

“I had bruises on my arm for several days before they actually finally went away,” she said.

Another driver, James Martin, was targeted by an unruly passenger on his route near Harrison and 22nd Street. The passenger was a woman who was upset over a transfer. That passenger proceeded to take out her anger out on Martin.

“As I turned back, that's when she came at around me with her big purse with buckles on it, and bent and broke my glasses, and gave me a cut, and blackened my left eye,” Martin said. Yet again, the suspect got away.   

Sun Tran General Manager, Kate Riley, tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the company has worked hard to improve security on and off buses.

“We have cameras on buses. We have cameras at the transit centers. We have contracted with private security, as well as Tucson Police Department off-duty officers,” Riley said.

Sun Tran has also brought in trainers to help drivers de-escalate potentially violent incidents.

"We take both driver and passenger security very, very seriously. It's one of our primary focuses," Riley said.

Riley added that Sun Tran is still doing more to improve safety.

“This last year we've gone additional steps in terms of partnering with the union in terms of poster campaign, getting Tucson Police Department off-duty officers, not only at the transit centers, but riding select routes where there might be issues,” Riley said.

“We have some wonderful passengers, but we have some that are questionable,” Michelle said.

There have been 22 assaults on drivers over the last 13 months, including one worker who was stabbed multiple times at the Laos Transit Center.

Drivers like Michelle and Martin say there needs to be a permanent security presence. They suggest transit police.

“I've had a few police officers on my bus in the past doing ride-alongs, and I know that has helped tremendously when they've been on there,” Michelle said.

“Whether it's with fares, you know, arguments between passengers. We need somebody out there who can handle this, and let the driver do what the driver needs to do, and that's drive the bus,” Martin added.

If you have something you would like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.

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