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Honolulu City Buses Considering Adding Cameras

After testing surveillance cameras out last month, the city is now reviewing nine bids on the project.

City transportation officials expect to award the contract before June 30.

Honolulu will soon be joining a growing list of cities with bus surveillance cameras that includes San Francisco, Cleveland and Chicago.

The city said it's installing the cameras to add extra security on it's fleet of 531 buses.

"For example, if there's an incident on the bus, an altercation of some sort, the video can be used to document what actually happened," said Wayne Yoshioka, city transportation director.

Yoshioka said six cameras will be mounted on each bus -- four on the inside, two outside. Articulated 60-foot buses will have two additional cameras.

It's getting mixed reviews from bus riders.

"I've seen a lot of bad things been happening on the bus," said bus rider Priscilla Banis. "The younger kids go and take ladies purses and do drugs."

"People need some privacy," said bus rider Carl Gruebl. "Everywhere you go these days you've got these cameras. I just don't don't think it's a good idea."

The strongest concerns about the cameras come from the union for the bus drivers.

"It's very difficult for (bus drivers) to be under the scrutiny of having a camera on them for eight to 10 hours a day, just watching the operator. I think that's an unfair requirement," said Ron Kozuma, teamsters union president.

Teamsters Local 996 has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over their objections with installing the cameras. Kozuma said the city should have come to the union first to negotiate the camera issues before putting it out to bid.

In 2008, a Honolulu bus driver was disciplined after being caught on video taken on a passenger's cell phone, playing a video game while driving the bus.

"If it's about homeland security, I think we understand, but we still have an obligation to protect our members," said Kozuma.

The city's transportation director said the cameras could be used to defend bus drivers in certain circumstances.

The city plans to install the cameras in increments, about 40 to 50 buses at first, with more added each year.

The $400,000 being spent in the first roll out is coming from local funds and federal transit administration funds.

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