TARC, union seek more protection for drivers, riders - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

TARC, union seek more protection for drivers, riders

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Waymond Groves Waymond Groves
Left: Me'Quale Offutt (Source: Family photo) Right: Anthony Allen (Source: LMDC) Left: Me'Quale Offutt (Source: Family photo) Right: Anthony Allen (Source: LMDC)
Barry Barker Barry Barker
Jonathan Dooley Jonathan Dooley

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) -TARC runs more than 170 buses during peak hours and almost three dozen at night, but even before a teenager was stabbed to death, managers and the union maintain drivers and riders need more guarantees of protection.

Diverse describes the riders who joined Waymond Groves on TARC's #4 route through Old Louisville, South Louisville and the University's Belknap campus Thursday.

Trouble rarely intrudes.

"But recently, it's been kind of rough," said Groves, a TARC patron for 38 years. "If it gets bad, they'll pull it over and call the police and lock the doors, that's normally what they do."

Louisville Metro police and TARC managers say that's what the driver did at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, when Me'Quale Offutt, 14, and Anthony Allen, 44, confronted each other on the #23 bus near 28th Street and Broadway.

Investigators alleged Allen stabbed Offutt and a 13-year-old girl after the driver stopped. Allen was charged with Offutt's murder after the young man died of his wounds at University of Louisville Hospital.

The driver has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of a police investigation, TARC Executive Director Barry Barker said.

"We're very concerned about any incident that occurs and what we've gotta do to solve it,"  Barker said.

TARC officials maintain said on-board cameras have made a difference. Such surveillance didn't prevent 17-year-old Rico Robinson from being shot to death July 23, 2012. But video helped police find his two suspected killers.

"We have GPS so we know where the buses are at all times," Barker said. "We've also got the radio that we can communicate with the drivers: we've just put somebody with this description off the bus, and be wary."

TARC has three off duty Louisville Metro officers and two off-duty corrections officers available to provide extra security as needed.  But the President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local #1447, which represents TARC drivers, believes it's not enough.

"We have a city ordinance, but it has no teeth to it," Jonathan Dooley said. "Something can happen and a person's out the same day."

House Bill #25 would upgrade attacks upon bus drivers and passengers to Class D felonies, punishable  by up to five years in prison. It's gone nowhere the past four legislative sessions. Dooley said rural lawmakers are afraid that local taxpayers would wind up footing the bill, as offenders would serve their time in county jails rather than state prisons.

"As late as last week, the Union went to the company, and suggested that we sit down and meet and try to strategize on hot points," Dooley said.

"We certainly will sit down after this and talk about what needs to be upgraded," Barker said. "But I'm not going to comment on particulars of that."

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