Baltimore Buses Add Audio to Video Surveillance

First 10 buses are outfitted to record passengers’, drivers’ conversations
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First 10 buses are outfitted to record passengers’, drivers’ conversations

Transit authorities in Baltimore have begun recording the conversations of riders and drivers along with video taping of riders in order “to investigate crimes, accidents and poor customer service,” according to a story in the Baltimore Sun.
During the end of October 2012, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) began recording rider’s conversations on 10 buses, and the MTA plans to have 340 buses—about half the fleet—able to record conversations by the middle of 2013.
The audio surveillance systems are being incorporated into the buses’ existing video surveillance systems, according to the MTA. The system uses a digital recorder that can store 30 days of audio and video that is locked in an equipment box on MTA buses, the transit agency says.
The MTA says it is recording the conversations of bus drivers and passengers to investigate crimes, accidents and charges of poor customer service. However, signs warning riders their words are being recorded have been erected in the buses where recording is being conducted. In addition, the MTA says if an accident occurs, or an incident involving passengers or a complaint against a driver is filed, investigators can retrieve the device and review the data.
The audio recording system is to “make sure people feel safe,” said Ralign Wells, MTA administrator. Audio recording “builds up” MTA’s “arsenal of tools to keep our patrons safe,” Wells said. “The audio completes the information package for investigators and responders,” he added.
The Maryland state attorney general’s office says the audio recording of bus passengers and drivers is legal, but the plan has opponents among state lawmakers, some of whom might take legislative action.