Additional security personnel will soon be present at Edmonton transit stations, as public safety continues to be in the spotlight following recent incidents on transit property.
On Tuesday, city council approved a plan to increase security at transit stations and improve on-board safety for drivers.
Within a couple of weeks, passengers will see more uniformed personnel at the 43 local transit stations, and 24-hour security at 26 transit stations that have had significant operator and citizen incidents in the last five years.
LISTEN BELOW: ETS branch manager Eddie Robar speaks with the 630 CHED Afternoon News
While transit stations are patrolled by both Edmonton Police Service officers and City of Edmonton Transit Peace Officers, city staff said in a report that the city’s transit stations “do not have consistently present security personnel.”
“These security personnel would be responsible for deterring, detecting and reporting incidents to the Edmonton Police Service,” read the report.
“This would enable customers and staff to receive immediate support from onsite security personnel. Administration will conduct a formal evaluation to monitor and report results after the first year of implementation.”
In recent weeks, there have been a couple of serious incidents at Edmonton transit stations, including a stabbing at the Mill Woods Transit Centre that sent a 65-year-old driver to hospital with multiple stab wounds. A 15-year-old was charged with several offences, including attempted murder and aggravated assault.
On Sept. 18, a student waiting at the South Campus LRT Station during the morning rush was stabbed.
The report debated Tuesday also included a recommendation to include retractable safety shields for bus drivers. It also suggested speeding up the timeline to have cameras installed on all Edmonton Transit System buses.
According to the report, the fleet is currently scheduled to be fully equipped with cameras by March 2019 but administration wanted to explore options to expedite the timeline. Right now, about 50 per cent of the ETS fleet is equipped with cameras.
LISTEN BELOW: Head of transit union Mark Terrington speaks with the 630 CHED Afternoon News
The city decided Tuesday to get everything in motion to start installing safety shields for drivers on city buses. The shields will cost $10.3 million and the increased security will run the city $6 million every year. The money must still be approved, but councillors appeared willing to pay and voted to take the next steps.
“We want to have a system that’s used by everyone and safety is a barrier for many,” Councillor Bev Esslinger said, adding that pubic transit has been identified as a service that women and girls in Edmonton do not feel safe using.
“We must continue to ensure that we have equal access for everyone – that they feel safe – whether they apply for a job as an operator, whether they want to ride our systems. That’s our commitment: safety.”
The move is welcomed by the head of the local transit union.
“Our membership, there’s probably never been as much anxiety as there is right now. Our members are really quite afraid to be working late-night service, especially in light of what happened a couple of weeks ago,” Mark Tetterington said.
“There’s a lot of fear out there right now and they’ve been asking for help with security shields probably for the last two years… or enhanced security as well – especially a presence at the transit centres.”
Despite having safety measures in place, city staff said recent incidents have showcased the need for further safety and security improvements, and that those improvements need to be accelerated.
The ETS provides about 87 million trips per year. Of the 65 million trips so far in 2018, city staff said there have been 2,072 transit-related incidents reported to the EPS. Of those, 230 resulted in criminal investigations. This breaks down to about one investigation for every 282,000 trips.
Watch below: The City of Edmonton addressed what can be done to protect drivers and passengers on public transit. Kent Morrison reports. (Filed Sept. 28, 2018).
With files from Scott Johnston, 630 CHED.
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