Law enforcement agencies will be able to view live footage streamed from surveillance cameras mounted inside local buses by mid-January, under a deal struck Thursday morning by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.
Without discussion, the transit agency’s board of directors unanimously approved a $248,460 contract with LiveTrax to design and install the necessary equipment to provide real-time camera feeds from the RTC’s fleet of 440 buses.
Currently, cameras inside RTC buses are capable of only recording images that may be viewed at a later time. Bus lines along the Strip will be the the first to provide live footage in November, with all other vehicles coming online shortly after the new year.
“When the police get a call on the bus, they don’t necessarily know what’s going on,” said Carl Scarbrough, the RTC’s director of transit amenities and technical equipment.
“Now, they can look at the cameras and they’ll know what’s going on before they even make a decision about how to respond,” he said.
The move toward providing live-stream footage from Southern Nevada buses started after Metropolitan Police Department officers could not see a gunman barricaded inside an RTC bus during a lengthy standoff that brought traffic along the Strip to a halt March 25.
The gunman, Rolando Cardenas, could see outside the shaded windows of the double-decked Deuce bus parked in front of The Cosmopolitan hotel-casino. However, SWAT officers could not see Cardenas because the windows were blocked by a vinyl advertisement wrapped around the bus.
About three hours into the standoff, police used a flash-bang to break the windows and placed a robot inside the bus to get a view of Cardenas, who is accused of fatally shooting one man and wounding another man on the bus. Cardenas tossed the robot outside the bus and remained barricaded until he was arrested without incident.
Live-stream cameras could have also helped in August, when a man fired a gun on a RTC bus and stayed on board during a standoff with police in northeast Las Vegas. No one was injured, as passengers were evacuated from the bus after the gunman fired several shots near Nellis Boulevard and Bonanza Road.
The RTC and Metro police have spent several months testing a live-stream camera system on a bus that primarily operates on Route 206, which runs along Charleston Boulevard between Downtown Summerlin and Sloan Lane in the east valley.
During the summer, RTC officials had tested other types of vinyl bus coverings but determined they made little difference in allowing police to see inside.
The agency will continue to use the same type of material for the wrap-around ads, which generate up to $2 million annually — enough to cover about 2 percent of the RTC’s service costs, or the equivalent of operating a smaller bus line elsewhere in the Las Vegas Valley.
“It’s not just the vinyl, sometimes even the tint on the windows or the stairwells on the Deuce cause obstruction that the cameras eliminate,” Scarbrough said. “Really, the cameras are a better solution because it gives police a much better view of what’s going on inside the bus.”