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Bus cameras failed to record downtown gunfire
King County Metro Transit will examine every bus camera after the devices on two buses failed to record Monday’s gun violence in downtown Seattle. Until now, the bus cameras have not been regularly inspected.
Seattle Times transportation reporter
King County Metro Transit will examine every camera on the 550 buses that carry them, prompted by a failure of the systems on two buses to record gunshots in downtown Seattle Monday morning.
The cameras have not been regularly inspected, and were checked only when an incident prompted Metro Transit to gather the footage.
From now on, cameras will be examined every 6,000 miles, at the same time brakes, engines and other parts undergo routine maintenance, Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok said Friday.
Every camera will be inspected during the next several days, she said, as Metro carries out an order issued Friday by County Executive Dow Constantine to review the maintenance of all cameras.
On Monday, just before 9 a.m., Martin A. Duckworth shot a bus driver, then was fatally shot by police as he apparently tried to commandeer a second bus. The first driver, DeLoy Dupuis, survived with wounds to the arm and cheek.
“We took a look at the two cameras; there wasn’t any video to retrieve,” Ogershok said Friday, confirming a report by Publicola.
The agency suspects hard-drive errors in the digital recording systems on both buses, but the situation is being investigated.
Bothell-based Apollo Video Technology, Metro’s video-surveillance supplier, had no comment Friday and referred questions to Metro.
Metro mentioned several factors that can cause a camera system to fail after installation, including heat and vibrations.
Sound Transit light-rail cars also are equipped with cameras. Other cameras in the control cabs record crashes or other incidents on the tracks.
Metro began using in-bus cameras in 2008. Under one early contract, it paid $685,000 to equip 145 buses, according to an Apollo statement at that time, an average $4,700 per vehicle.
Since then, the number of equipped buses has grown to 550, or about 40 percent of the fleet, and is to grow to 50 percent by the end of this year. Cameras are funded largely by federal Homeland Security grants, Metro says.
In the last 18 months, Metro says, it has pulled video records 4,000 times based on requests by law enforcement, and sometimes by news organizations.
In several cases, cameras have helped police find criminals — notably Raymel J. Curry, who attacked a 55-year-old passenger exiting a Route 7 bus in 2010.
Despite lacking footage of this week’s gun violence, police and Metro supervisors say they have gathered abundant evidence, including accounts from bus drivers and passengers.
“We kind of know how the actual incident played out,” Ogershok said.
Metro says it has been testing Wi-Fi technology that might alert transit supervisors to a camera outage.
Data about camera failure rates in King County weren’t immediately available Friday.
Duckworth shot the driver, Dupuis, after being asked to pay the fare on Third Avenue on a Route 27 bus. Moments later, officers shot Duckworth, who was still armed, after he forced his way onto a Route 120 bus that had just arrived on Seneca Street.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @mikelindblom