Aggressive events on-board buses between drivers and passengers: an analysis of CCTV footage

  • Adrienne Gregory

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Bus drivers face an increased risk of customer violence and there have been a number of high profile assaults across Australia in recent years. However little is known about the nature of these aggressive encounters. Existing research is focused on taxis, trains and airlines, tends to be cross-sectional, and there is very little emanating from Australian-based research that recognises local differences. The current study utilises CCTV as a novel observational tool to analyse 20 cases of physical violence between drivers and passengers on-board. It adopts an in-depth qualitative case study approach and draws on frameworks offered by Situational Crime Prevention and Routine Activity Theory to foster a crime event sensibility and understand the dynamic, interactive nature of the encounters. Specifically, the research examined how aggressive driver-passenger events emerge, unfold and evolve in time and space, paying attention to proximal contributing factors, types of violence, who is involved and how. Subsidiary issues include the fluid nature of violence, including processes of volatility and escalation, and the role of the audience in aggressive encounters.
Key findings to emerge include an absence of volatility during the incidents. Conflict is precipitated by a multiplicity or build-up of proximal factors operating in the immediate environment that progressively increase frustration for all parties involved. This frustration is logical and rational, relating to four main issues: disputes over fares, refusal of service, service quality and rule enforcement. There are distal factors at play, including isolation, mobility and the low status nature of bus driving. Conflict escalates from the verbal to the physical realm, although there is not a one-directional linear pattern. The violence increases and decreases in severity, and potentially increases again. Similarly, there are exit or termination points where aggression can cease or continue. The violence has ripple or spill over effects where other people become involved and affected, which can influence perceptions of service, safety and security in the bus environment. These findings combined encapsulate the concept of the “wave of crime” revealed in the present research.
Date of Award11 Feb 2017
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsSurfside Buslines Pty Ltd
SupervisorRobyn Lincoln (Supervisor)

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