CCTV installation is part of a series of technology enhancements on BC Transit buses worth approximately $11 million. (Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash)

Cameras on Greater Trail buses aid investigations

CCTV footage has supported investigations almost 3,500 times to date, including 360 police cases

Video cameras installed on public transit buses – including 13 in Trail – are proving to be a valuable investigative tool.

BC Transit pulled footage to aid in 11 local investigations last year at the behest of a private citizen or agency, such as the RCMP and ICBC.

In fact, more than half of the West Kootenay fleet is now outfitted with closed circuit television cameras (CCTV), including six transit buses that run in Nelson. In 2018, video footage was used 15 times to look into Queen City incidents.

“Across the province we’ve seen similar results … in a number of communities of different sizes and make-ups,” BC Transit spokesperson Jonathon Dyck said. “If there’s something that happened on a bus and we need to go back and take a look from a customer complaint or an incident that is safety-related – or whatever it might be – then we go back and take that (video) as part of the investigation.”

Aside from helping resolve incidents after-the-fact, Dyck says cameras are also proving their worth by curbing certain behaviours.

“The cameras will actually deter inappropriate activity on the bus, because if people know that the cameras are there, they are less likely to do something inappropriate,” he told the Trail Times. “But if something unfortunately occurs aboard a bus … it’s a tool to use as part of a broader investigation and we can use that information to help us (make) informed decisions.”

Each bus has four to eight cameras recording events in the interior. As well, a high-definition camera in the driver’s compartment records events in front of the bus and two more cameras keep an eye on the outside of the bus.

Notably, the cameras are not monitoring in real-time. Instead, all video files are encrypted and stored on hard drives for up to seven days.

“The other important piece is that these cameras are not live monitors,” Dyck explained. “If there is an incident and the driver notices it, what will happen is that the driver will hit a button and the footage gets tagged, so we can go back and take a look at that specific footage.”

There is a timeframe for retrieving tapes, however.

If a request is not submitted within seven days, the video will record over itself.

“This is to be respectful of the data that we are collecting,” Dyck said. “We know that privacy is important to our customers and to the public. This tool has been helpful for us, but at the same time, we work hard to balance that privacy piece as well.”

As a means to improve safety, over 600 buses across the province now have video cameras on board.

Medium and heavy-duty vehicles bought from 2006 to 2016 have been retro-fitted, and all new BC Transit buses will have cameras factory-installed.

“When we were going through and planning for the process, in terms of replacements and the life cycle of a bus, we figured those buses would be worthwhile to install cameras on so we could get them on right away,” Dyck said. “And new buses will have CCTV cameras on them, that’s part of our standard now.”

Information collected is in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

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