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TriMet union calls for more security

by: KOIN LOCAL 6 - A security guard stands watch over a TriMet rest stop bathroom where a bus driver was stabbed Wednesday, July 17, 2013, by a man who fled along Foster near SE 94th Avenue. Authorities believe the suspect is a man living in one of the nearby transient camps.Security officers are now watching over the SE 94th Avenue and Foster Road rest stop where a TriMet bus driver was stabbed in Portland Wednesday.

A security guard stands watch over a TriMet rest stop bathroom where a bus driver was stabbed Wednesday, July 17, 2013, by a man who fled along Foster near SE 94th Avenue. Authorities believe the suspect is a man living in one of the nearby transient camps. But with three stabbings of TriMet drivers on duty in the last 10 months the union president says enough is enough.

“That’s not counting the verbal assaults that we receive everyday — the spittings, the physical altercations that may ensue,” said Bruce Hansen with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757.

TriMet, the Portland-based mass transit agency hiring the drivers, said it’s increasing transit security throughout the area. It’s also offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in the July 17 case.

However, the union’s position is this latest stabbing is just part of the increasing violence bus driver’s are facing. In October 2012, a driver was stabbed in Oregon City.

Then, in April of this year, KOIN 6 News learned that another stabbing in the area of a SE 92nd Avenue rest stop at Flavel Street had long been a safety concern for TriMet operators. That stop is less than a mile from where Wednesday’s stabbing took place.

Union representatives asked that a long list of problems at the rest area be addressed: lighting, broken locks, tipped over units and transients camping nearby. At the time, TriMet told us they would look into the situation.

On Thursday, KOIN 6 News checked back in. TriMet reported it fast-tracked plans to improve the Flavel Street stop — and moved the portable toilet 15 feet into an area with better lighting.

But Hansen said the abuse on TriMet’s drivers has become so bad lately that drivers are afraid. Even a TriMet spokesperson admits there has been a spike in assaults on drivers.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a trend on transit,” TriMet Spokesperson Roberta Aldstadt said. “We’ve also seen assaults throughout the city rise.”

The union would like to see bus drivers carry mace, which is currently not allowed on the job. Drivers also reportedly don’t receive any kind of training as far as self defense.

"I don’t have the exact information,” Aldstadt said when asked by self-defense training. “What I do know is they are trained to deescalate situations on the bus.”

The two suspects behind the TriMet bathroom stabbings are still on the loose and both are thought to be transients.

“We believe the problem is the transient camps that have sprung up in the area,” Aldstadt confirmed Thursday.

Still, after talking to the most recent stabbing victim Fadi Hamad in the hospital, Hansen feels more than ever TriMet needs to do more to protect its drivers.

“He’s frustrated, he’s scared,” Hansen said. “It’s a terrifying incident for him.”