VIA to put uniformed, plain-clothed officers on buses

VIA CEO: 'Personal security and safety are on the top of everyone's mind'

SAN ANTONIO – Last week's shooting on a VIA Metropolitan Transit bus that left one man dead shocked many riders and the community.

Officials with VIA have stated that the security of their riders and employees remains a top priority and, on Wednesday, VIA announced the second part of their Safe Program, an extension of their "See Something, Say Something" campaign launched in October.

VIA is now introducing enhanced security practices, including having both uniformed and plain-clothed officers riding buses to make sure passengers and drivers are OK.

Shirl Gomez, who has been riding VIA buses for more than 10 years, said Wednesday that seeing uniformed VIA officers on the bus makes her feel a little safer.

"I think we do need them because there's a lot of older people and children and there are some people that don't care," said Gomez. "I'm glad that VIA is stepping up and doing the right thing for the safety of pedestrians and people that ride the bus."

VIA President and CEO Jeffrey Arndt said passengers will notice a higher presence of security and police at park-and-rides, transit centers and on buses.

"This is particularly important," Arndt. "With this much community-wide increase in crime, and with the holiday season approaching, personal security and safety are on the top of everyone's mind as always here at VIA."

Arndt said officers will be circulating throughout the system and conducting security sweeps of buses in service.

"I think a lot of people will feel more comfortable with officers and undercover officers on the bus to protect citizens," said Lillian Mitchell, who said she has been riding the bus all her life.

"Our transit police do a very excellent job of security on the bus and policing the bus stops," said Candelario Muniz, a VIA bus driver. "Any altercation, they're there to resolve the issue."

However, Arndt said they are still relying on their riders to speak up and if they see something suspicious.

"Our customers will see things and hear things that our bus operator may not be aware of," Arndt.

Gomez said she's ready to speak up if she has to and that she even has the VIA Police number saved on her cell phone.

That number for VIA Transit Police is 210-362-2439.

VIA officials are also letting passengers know that they can tell the bus driver if there's a problem or if it's serious enough, they can always call 911.

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