“I am Thomas Dunn.”
This was the sentence that echoed through the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit’s (HART) board of directors meeting on Monday.
One by one, bus drivers walked up to the microphone and spoke about how the murder of their colleague had affected them.
Dunn was stabbed to death on May 18 by a passenger while on the job.
According to HART bus drivers, acts of violence from passengers are not uncommon.
“The incidents that happen are more rampant than people have even described,” Daniel Haney said. “My first year here, walking around the bus station, I came upon an attack of one of my coworkers at the time. I sat on the ground for 45 minutes holding his airway open after an assault that broke half of the man’s face and blocked his ability to breathe.”
Haney said he has been pepper sprayed and has had things thrown at him while he was operating a HART bus.
Kimberly Amdor was also assaulted on the job. She told the crowd how a drunk customer boarded her bus, grabbed her arm and attempted to punch her repeatedly in the face.
“The stress from the attack has caused me fear and anxiety every single day I go to work,” Amdor said. “All I want for me and my fellow operators is a safety barrier. If we had safety barriers when I was attacked, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Other drivers echoed a similar desire for a partition between themselves and passengers, saying a partition would help them feel safer at work.
“At $4,000 apiece, it’s definitely a small price to pay,” Commissioner Patricia Kemp said. “One that Hart could pay for the 190 buses. We’re talking less than a million dollars and I would say that is definitely something we could do.”
HART Safety and Security Director Collin Mulloy presented a list of ways the agency has handled security in the past and how they plan to react to their drivers’ concerns.
“In December, we began with the Ybor facility camera installation,” Mulloy said. “We immediately had safety and security promotional campaigns. We did on the spot recognition for our employees that go above and beyond.”
As far as next steps, Mulloy said HART plans to send out an Operator Safety Survey, launch a rider awareness campaign, and hold a statewide safety symposium.
Chairperson Les Miller said he wanted to see action taken even sooner, forming a Safety Security and Operations Committee with five board members on the spot.
The committee, which will also include members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, will meet this month and present their suggestions at the next Board of Directors meeting in July.