VIA, lawmaker support bill for increased passenger protection

Bill would increase penalties for violent crimes on Texas public transit

SAN ANTONIO – VIA Metropolitan Transit and a state lawmaker from San Antonio announced their support Monday of a bill in the Texas Legislature aimed at protecting passengers of public transit.

District 120 Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins and VIA president and CEO Jeffrey Arndt held a news conference to offer their support of House Bill 2032. The bill would increase penalties for people who commit violent crimes on Texas public transit systems and provide a tool to help deter criminal activity and enhance safety of the traveling public.

"We want to make sure that it is a safe environment, and that's so important," Gervin-Hawkins said.

Related: VIA bus driver attacked by passenger

Arndt said the bill will bolster the transit company's strong commitment to the safety of its passengers and operators.

"Of course, anything that happens on the bus does put the operator in a position, too. That distracts them from driving safely," he said. "So the whole thing brings everyone on the bus to that same level of protection."

There have been at least two instances of violence reported on VIA buses this year.

In March, two people got into a fight on a bus that forced the bus driver to pull over. The two people got off the bus and continued fighting until one of them ended up getting stabbed.

An incident in February resulted in the arrest of a man who was accused of punching a bus driver in the face.

The bill has been referred to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee for consideration.

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