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Union Wants More Protection For City Bus Drivers From Potential Attacks

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TWC News: Union Wants More Protection For City Bus Drivers From Potential Attacks
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The union representing city bus drivers says they're under attack, and it wants the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to hurry up and protect them. The agency said it's already doing that, but the union is far from satisfied. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

City bus drivers are having an ugly July.

In the first 10 days of the month, drivers have been mugged aboard the M14 in Manhattan, slashed in the arm on the Bx5 and stabbed in the hand on the Bx41 in the Bronx.

Some bus drivers, including one who says he got whacked in the forehead by a passenger with an umbrella, are saying enough is enough.

"We had three operators that was injured. Blood was shed," said Steven Kirton, a bus driver. "What's the next step?"

On Thursday, the transport workers' union plans to rally in Brooklyn to push the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to install more safety barriers in buses. The union is also urging drivers to shut buses down if they think someone is about to attack one of them or a passenger.

"I'm not gonna have an operator driving a bus while they're being assaulted or abused," said J.P. Patafio, of Transport Workers Union Local 100. "We're going to stop the bus, because that is the way attention is going to be made."

The MTA said it's installed bus operator shields on 1,500 buses and cameras on almost as many, but that's not good enough, or fast enough, for the union.

The MTA presently uses 14 different types of bus models, making the task of outfitting the different models with safety barriers a little trickier.

The agency said there have been 51 reported bus driver assaults through the first half of the year. Last year at this time, there'd been 47

The MTA said attacks against drivers have dropping since 2009. They said 126 drivers were assaulted that year.

The union contends that some assaults go unreported.

"You can go to any bus operator in any any depot and ask them if they've been assaulted or cursed at or abused, and I guarantee you they'll say yes," Patafio said.

An assault on a bus driver can carry a maximum seven-year prison sentence, but the union said that's a penalty that's rarely enforced.

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