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Attack on MBTA bus driver highlights need for more protections

The senseless attack on an MBTA bus driver in Dorchester by a group of teenagers Saturday should be a call to action to step up protections for vulnerable T employees. Police report 22 cases of assaults or threats against T drivers so far this year — an alarming statistic and an increase over the same period in 2012.

The Transit Police are searching for 15 to 20 suspects, who attacked the driver at around 1 a.m. near the corner of Columbia Road and Geneva Avenue. But the bus did not have a security camera that would have helped identify the assailants. New buses carry cameras, but the T should outfit more older buses, too.

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In addition, police should get more authority to arrest attackers. Right now, except for the most serious crimes, T police arriving at the scene can only issue a summons. The Legislature should approve a bill backed by the T police and drivers’ union that would allow officers to make immediate arrests for assault and battery. Although such authority wouldn’t have made a difference on Saturday — the attackers fled before police arrived — it could help in other cases.

Thankfully, the driver suffered only minor injuries. Easing arrests and adding cameras won’t prevent all assaults. But as part of a sustained effort to protect drivers, those measures would help not just T employees, but the public that relies on safe transportation.

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