PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – TriMet bus and train operators are asking for more protections against people who assault them, along with harsher penalties when those assaults occur.
According to TriMet, there were 26 assaults on operators in 2017, the last year for which numbers are available.
There were 19 assaults the year before.
"It doesn’t stop. We’ve had stuff thrown at us. Thrown on us," said Gordon Duncan, a TriMet bus driver. "It’s just out of the blue. People do it. Because there’s no security on the buses."
TriMet and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents operators, have been lobbying state lawmakers to create harsher penalties for people who assault drivers.
Under current state law, an assault on a driver is considered a felony offense only if the driver remains in their seat.
In addition, TriMet is taking other steps, including the installation of adjustable plexiglass safety panels around the operator's seat.
Michael Bishop, a TriMet training supervisor, said drivers are also encouraged to de-escalate situations, and try to empathize with frustrated customers.
"You don’t have to know their backstory, but understand they’ve got issues, they’ve got personal issues in life just like we do," said Bishop.
But Duncan, who was punched in the back of the head a few years ago, believes drivers would benefit more from increased security, and more involvement by road supervisors and transit police.
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