By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Top brass from the Philadelphia Police Department and Septa Transit Police were assuring members of the Transport Workers Union today that safety is their priority, for both bus operators and riders.

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The TWU sought the meeting after cataloguing what the union describes as a “spike” in assaults in 2011 and 2012, including one on driver Tony Toklish in the Frankford section of the city last year, when an unstable man made death threats.

” ‘I’m going to kill you and everybody on the bus,’ ” Toklish recalls the man saying.  “He then started screaming — his lips were touching my ear, he was screaming that close.”

Then, Toklish says, he was suddenly assaulted by the man:

“I had three broken ribs.  He broke my nose in two places, and I got 12 stitches in my head.”

(Septa workers meet with law enforcement officials regarding driver safety.  Credit: Steve Tawa)

(Septa workers meet with law enforcement officials regarding driver safety. Credit: Steve Tawa)

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Septa Transit Police chief Thomas Nestel says his 270-member force is making more contact with drivers and passengers, on routes and around depots.

“We will try to make it safer for them through visibility, aggressive enforcement, and followup,” Nestel promised the group.

Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey says his officers are also being instructed to make more aggressive rounds on buses.

“The main thing is that we want that presence,” Ramsey said.  “We want them to board the bus.  We don’t want them to just chitchat with the driver and look at it from the outside.”

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