Sheriff's deputies to patrol city buses

The Detroit City Council approved a plan that will allow county sheriff's deputies to patrol city buses after hundreds of drivers staged a walkout to protest the lack of security.

While police used to patrol the buses, that program was halted in 2005 because of Detroit's chronic budget woes. Since then, drivers have complained they have been physically and verbally assaulted on their buses, with one driver reportedly suffering minor injuries this week after being punched by a passenger.

"Ever since people found out there were no police on buses, it's like open season on the drivers and 120,000 people riding the buses every day," said Henry Gaffney, president of the 970-member union. "Enough is enough."

About 120,000 riders, including thousands of public school students, were forced to find alternate transportation Wednesday during the drivers' protest. Drivers reported for work but stopped driving scheduled routes after 3:10 a.m. Wednesday

The deal with the Wayne County sheriff's department to have deputies ride on selected routes was to start at 3 a.m. Thursday morning, but was valid only for a 24-hour period. A sheriff's spokesman said the department still was in discussions with the mayor's office about the deal.

City Council members said they would not be intimidated into voting for a permanent agreement to keep deputies on buses, The Detroit News reported. The council is expected to discuss and possibly vote on the issue Thursday.

Detroit has struggled for years to revamp its image, which was seriously sullied in 1974 when the city earned the dubious moniker of "Murder City" after it logged 714 homicides that year. The homicide rate has steadily decreased, in tandem with similar decreases throughout the U.S., but Detroit has continued to grapple with a series of economic challenges that have made revival efforts difficult.

The walkout was not organized by the union, union officials said.

The Detroit mayor's office said in a statement that it understood the union's concern, but did not agree with its tactics.