The MBTA is launching a new campaign to warn riders not to assault T employees.
“Think twice before putting your hands on T staff. We will find you, arrest you and prosecute you,” Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan says in a recorded public service announcement that will soon air in all T stations.
“Your safety is our top priority,” MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott says during the recording. “Please do your part to ensure the safety of our operators and T customers.”
Along with the audio messages, the T will also hang signs – including “car cards” and seat-back decals – inside buses that show two arms in handcuffs and a message saying “Don’t touch the driver.”
During the first four months of 2012, there were 24 reported assaults on MBTA employees, During the first four months of 2013, there were 28 reported assaults on MBTA employees, including one particularly alarming incident in Marchwhen between 15 and 20 teenagers punched an MBTA bus driver and tried to pull him from the driver’s side window while the bus was picking up passengers in Dorchester, authorities said. Two arrests have since been made.
Scott cited that incident in a letter to T employees in April, saying that the driver continued to recover and that: “Our public cares and we appreciate their support in helping to identify and apprehend these assailants. But this incident reminds us that we must proactively inform our customers that an assault on a T employee is against the law, and that offenders will be prosecuted. Front-line MBTA employees are particularly vulnerable to such attacks.”
Scott wrote that the T’s management and employee union are committed to working together to solve the problem.
“I want you to know how deeply troubled I am by several recent brazen attacks on our employees in the course of them doing their jobs, and to let you know that we will not sit by idly and let these egregious acts go unanswered,” she wrote. “Certainly, getting assaulted is not part of any T employee’s job.”
She said that an “Employee Safety Program” will roll out in the coming weeks “to reduce the potential for attacks.”
The T will continue to add surveillance cameras inside buses “to deter and record attacks;” expand employee training for how to try to deescalate potentially violence situations and how to protect themselves; and the agency will also “assess the feasibility of installing partitions to separate drivers from passengers.”
Along with the print and audio ads that will appear system-wide, T officials will continue to push for state legislation that would “strengthen the law for assaulting an operator,” Scott wrote.
“One of our mantras at the T is ‘Safety is our number 1 priority,’” she wrote. “Foremost, this includes the safety of our customers and all our employees, from the front lines to the garages. So, let’s work together to make sure the public understands that we stand together in this endeavor and that we mean what we say.”
E-mail Matt Rocheleau at email@example.com.