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Police ride C-Tran, keep things safe, quiet

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The C-Tran bus takes two hours and 17 minutes, round trip.

From the airport to Riverdale, down Riverdale Road, to Tara Boulevard and a long stop at the county courthouse, and then back again, it's two hours, 17 minutes.

"I know from experience," said David Ricks, a Clayton County police officer with the Special Operations unit.

Ricks is one of the officers assigned to the buses, so when the 1008 opened its doors late on Thursday afternoon, he stepped in and took his spot standing in the back.

His partner for the patrol, Jonathan McCant, takes a similar spot up front, standing up near the door, a little behind the driver.

"When the drivers see us," McCant said, "they're like, 'Thank God.' Yesterday, he had two females get on the bus and go to the back and right away, they started fighting. Physically fighting. We don't really do anything, on the bus, but just being their keeps everything quiet."

The Clayton County Police Department started putting officers on buses as part of regular patrols two months ago. Pairs of officers from the Special Operations unit are assigned to bus, at random intervals on random lines, and they stand in the doorways and ride, giving C-Tran some police presence.

The bus patrol wasn't prompted by any incidents, according to the department's spokeswoman, Lt. Rebecca Brown, but came out of Police Chief Jeff Turner's meetings with citizens.

"The bus drivers voiced their concerns to him," Brown said. "It was minor things, people arguing, people fighting, nothing major, but there was something we could do."

The policy also follows the change in state law allowing concealed guns on buses, with registration. During the arguments about the law, both those for and against concealed weapons on public transit talked about danger on the buses, and the lack of police presence.

Today, the insides of the C-Tran buses bear a list of rules, including the commands not to "carry weapons [except firearms when carrying a valid permit]" and not to "assault the driver."

"Nowadays, with so many people having guns, you just never know," Brown said. "Thankfully, thank God, we have had no major incidents on the bus. This is just part of patrolling ... People are trying to go to work or trying to go home, and if that's you on the bus, would you want to be held up because some people are being stupid?"

On Thursday, when McCant and Ricks stepped onto the C-Tran bus, there was standing room only. As the 1008 left Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the passengers were crowded into the aisle, but they were quiet. A few cut glances at the police, at first, wondering if something was wrong here, but then they ignored the men in uniform, reading their books, texting on their cell phones, and swaying with the southbound bus.

Ricks said he saw an apparently drunk man board one time, see an officer and then get off again. He's seen someone throw marijuana away, at the sight of the dark blue uniforms, but pretty much everything just stays nice and boring for two hours and 17 minutes.