• 9 Investigates: CATS cracks down on problematic young riders

    By: Tenikka Smith


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For more than six months, Channel 9 has investigated teen and younger adults creating problems on CATS buses and in the transit center in uptown Charlotte.
    Channel 9 obtained surveillance video from a CATS bus last December.
    The video shows the events that happened after CMPD broke up a teen party in north Charlotte. 
    The group scattered but ended up at various bus stops nearby.
    On the video you can see the bus fill up quickly and as it makes its way down North Tryon Street you can hear a gunshot.
    Moments later, CATS said 20-year-old Vashawn Williams, left the bus slumped over.
    Police believe Williams accidentally shot himself with a gun he was carrying inside that bus, but officers never recovered the gun. 
    Williams survived and was not charged.
    It is against city law to have dangerous weapons on CATS buses. 
    Levern McElveen is in charge of safety and security for CATS and a former bus driver himself.
    "We're doing everything we can to combat those types of incidents," McElveen said.

    RAW: Gunshot caught on camera on CATS bus 

    In the last six months, Channel 9 tracked a number of incidents involving teens and young adults ranging from vandalism, large groups rushing buses and refusing to pay, fights in the transit center and even assaults on drivers.  Several riders at the transit center told us they've witnessed bad behavior.
    Rider Edward Taylor said, "Undisciplined. It's uncalled for."
    Twenty-one-year old Shawn Gaither said, "They want to be rowdy for no apparent reason.  I don't understand."
    Frequent ride Gussie Perry said she's even gotten involved when she's seen young riders misbehaving.
    "Sometimes you have to pull them to the side and talk to them." Perry said, "I have a bad habit of doing that."

    CATS said incidents with young riders are not increasing, but they are becoming more brazen.

    Just last week G4S, the private police force for CATS, took 18-year-old Jashari Billups into custody after a bus driver noticed suspicious behavior.
    McElveen said, "They grabbed the guy pat him down. Sure enough they found a .45 caliber and bag of marijuana."
    Billups, who has a history of arrests for violent crimes, was charged with felony possession of a stolen firearm.

    Virtually all incidents are caught on video. Cameras monitor the transit center and all 320 buses in the fleet are equipped with six cameras each.

    Last month, CATS was approved for a $300,000 federal grant to add two more cameras per bus. 
    McElveen said most young riders follow the rules, but CATS will hold even the youngest responsible.
    In the past, employees have taken surveillance footage to CMS to help identify troublemakers.
    "We will use that footage to apprehend and prosecute anyone who is threatening the passengers on our bus," McElveen said.
    CATS said all of its drivers go through seven weeks of intense training which includes road safety and diffusing problems with passengers.

    CATS also participates in the "If You See Something, Say Something" public awareness campaign which encourages people to report any suspicious behavior.

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