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Don't let fear rule transit

To the editor:

I am disappointed with the lack of criticism roused by the recent call for video cameras and "transit cops" on Metro Transit, after a Metro Transit employee was groped by a passenger. Our privacy in public continues to be infringed upon while our skepticism of such infringements seems to be decreasing at an alarming rate.

While security cameras may deter some from committing crimes and help identify individuals after a crime, there are other options which would not require surveillance equipment and the hire of "transit cops."

Many European transit employees operate transit vehicles from behind a closed door. Transfers and tickets are dispensed and validated by machines or slid through a window. During emergencies, drivers can push a panic button and wait for transit security. While I assume most Metro Transit employees shudder at the thought of being locked behind a door, I shudder at the thought of being under surveillance every time I ride the bus. This is one comfort I am not willing to negotiate on in the name of fear.

The safety of transit employees is definitely a priority. However, I do not think their safety takes priority over our privacy, especially when there are other options that could be explored to protect the safety of drivers and privacy of passengers. The truth of the matter is that there is no ready-made, fail-safe solution. There are ways to trick cameras and ways to evade "transit cops." What must be considered is whether fears generated from a few random acts of violence warrant the surveillance measures being proposed.

Metro Transit passengers are paying customers and Metro Transit employees are paid to provide a service. As paying customers, we should have a say in this matter. Reports state that Metro Transit "will" be installing cameras on buses and that surveillance equipment is already being purchased. Who's paying for this infringement of privacy? We are. It's time to speak up before we lose another battle for the privacy of the masses over the fears of a few.

Keep this issue in mind as we're bombarded with horror stories from the Greyhound bus attack in Winnipeg. Would cameras or "transit cops" have prevented this tragedy? Not likely. Crime happens and the harsh reality is that people are not in a rational state of mind when they act violently. Fear is a dangerous thing and we'll be its victim if we do not question what we're being asked to be afraid of.

By ---Cheryl Watts

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