Danger In The Driver's Seat: Dozens of CT Transit Drivers Report Assaults

Dozens of CT Transit drivers have reported that they have been assaulted on the job by passengers, according to CT Transit incident reports obtained by NBC Connecticut Investigates. The reports, along with on-board surveillance footage obtained by NBC Connecticut Investigates through a public records request, detail what drivers say they have endured over the last several years.

Video from one incident in November 2017 shows a passenger throwing a swift punch to the face of a CT Transit bus driver. According to the driver, the passenger landed the punch then ran out of the bus, leaving the driver stunned and bleeding.

In another situation in December 2017, a CT Transit bus driver described getting a bottle of ice tea thrown at him from the back of the bus.

Another report includes a passenger sticking her arm in between the closing bus doors to spray mace in the face of a driver. Bus drivers also reported multiple instances of passengers spitting on them.

"The level of respect; there is none anymore," said Desiree Martone, a CT Transit operator for the last 15 years. She said she can recall one particular day more than the rest. "It bothered me," said Martone. "It still does today, that that happened."

In May of 2018, Martone said she told a pair of women they could not have their ice cream on board because it is against bus policy. You can see on surveillance video that while Martone is in the driver's seat, one of the women dumps the dessert onto Martone's head.

"It hurts, though, when you're out there doing a public service and the people attack you for doing your job," Martone said.

In April 2017, another CT Transit driver reported an incident involving an angry passenger who spit at the driver and then tried to leave. With the doors still closed, the passenger can be seen grabbing a wooden block to smash the bus windows several times.

"You're always concerned for the safety of your employees," said Cole Pouliot, General Manager of CT Transit. "Certainly it's not normal," Pouliot said of the assaults reported. "Nobody expects somebody to behave this way."

With thousands of passengers riding CT Transit every day, Pouliot said the 42 reported on-board assaults since 2016 is a relatively low number. Still, the incidents are worrisome, he said.

"I get concerned every time I see something like that," Pouliot said. "These are public servants out there."

CT Transit driver Chris Beichner described what he said happened to him in October 2016. He reported an angry passenger approaching him with drink in hand.

"And before she got off, she just dumped it over me," he said.

Other CT Transit drivers said that what they endure on the job is not always physical.

"You have customers coming at you daily threatening you, degrading you, using vulgar language," said CT Transit driver Staci Davis.

According to the records NBC Connecticut Investigates obtained, of the 42 assaults reported, only five resulted in arrests or charged. CT Transit said that is up to drivers to decide if charges should to be filed after an incident. Employees also have access to assistance programs and time away from work, if they feel the incident was serious enough to need it.

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