T begins installing bus security cameras; officials hoping move will cut down on crime

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has begun to install more than 200 high-definition, 4G LTE-enabled security cameras on buses throughout the transit system — one of the initial stages of a process to bring video surveillance to the entire bus and subway fleet.

The high-tech security cameras and video monitors are being paid for by a $6.9 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to help police respond to emergencies in real-time and aid in criminal prosecution.

In the past three weeks, T staff have installed the cameras on 10 buses; a total of 225 will be outfitted by the end of this summer.

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Video monitors will also be installed inside the buses behind the driver’s cab, allowing passengers to see what’s being recorded on video — similar to a security camera screen in a grocery store. Transit officials hope the video monitors will be a deterrent to crime, and will also help passengers be more aware of what’s going on in the bus.

“What we’re trying to do is make everyone on the bus work as an extra set of eyes to help report suspicious behavior or criminal activity,” said Randy Clarke, senior director of security and emergency management for the MBTA.

The cameras use Verizon’s 4G LTE network to allow the digital video feed inside the bus to be streamed in real time to the T’s bus control center, where MBTA staff will be able to watch occurrences inside the bus as they unfold. That video feed will also be avalable to MBTA Transit Police officers from inside their cruisers.

“A lot of our buses are crowded,” Transit Police Superintendent Joseph O’Connor said. “This will cut through some of the confusion.”

O’Connor said the buses that have already been outfitted with the cameras have been placed on lines known to have issues with crime. One of those lines is the No. 23 route, which extends from Ashmont Station to Ruggles Station via Washington Street in Dorchester and Roxbury and has drawn attention as a violence-ridden sector of the MBTA system.

“Although crime is relatively low on buses, the sense of fear that some of our riders have still remains, and we want to reduce that fear for some of the riders,” O’Connor said. “Hopefully, this will deter some people from engaging in bad behavior. We think it’s going to be a significant positive step for us.”

Eventually, T officials hope to receive funding to place the cameras on all the system’s buses, and on any new train cars incorporated into the system, Clarke said, including the $1.3 billion in Red and Orange Line trains expected to be introduced in 2019.