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'Disturbing': Smith promises change after Edmonton bus damaged, rider threatened with ice pick

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A 20-year-old man has been arrested and charged after police say he caused more than $5,000 worth of damage to an Edmonton Transit Bus and threatened a female passenger, acts that drew condemnation from Alberta's premier.

Police officers were called to the Northgate Transit Terminal on 137 Avenue and 97 Street at 10:45 p.m. on Jan. 22.

The man was "acting erratically" when he entered the empty bus through an open rear door, Edmonton Police Service confirmed to CTV News Edmonton on Monday.

"The male caused significant damage to the interior of the bus before reportedly exiting the bus with an ice pick that he had located on the bus. It was reported that he then threatened a female who was standing outside," Sgt. Dan Thames wrote in an email.

EPS' Air1 helicopter was called in to track the man and Thames said he was arrested a short time later.

Police didn't provide the name of the accused but said several charges have been laid including mischief over $5,000.

The driver had already left the bus to use the washroom and was not directly involved, a city spokesperson said, adding that no one else was injured in the incident.

"No one quite knows why [it happened], but it certainly looked like an exercise in frustration to me," said Steve Bradshaw, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569.

"I don’t want to make light of [incidents like this]. They’re one-offs, they’re anecdotal in some ways, but they matter. They affect how we feel going to work, or how riders feel getting on the bus."

The damage is expected to cost anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000 to fix. 

'HELP IS ON THE WAY'

"These images are disturbing. Edmonton deserves better," Premier Danielle Smith wrote when she shared photos of the bus in a Sunday tweet.

"[Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister] Mike Ellis, Edmonton Police Service and the task force have my full support to not only provide compassionate care to those suffering addiction, but also ensure reliable public safety across our capital city."

CTV News Edmonton has been provided with several copies of photos showing the damage to the bus, but has not been able to confirm the original source of the images.

Smith's government assembled the Edmonton Public Safety and Community Response Task Force in December in response to social disorder and police reporting a rise in violence downtown and along transit lines.

"The task force is focused on collaboration between municipal and provincial officials combined with expertise brought by community leaders to find meaningful solutions to social disorder," Ellis, a former Calgary police officer, tweeted about the bus incident.

"We are working diligently to find solutions that will have real impact to improving public safety by helping along a path to recovery. Help is on the way soon."

A spokesperson for Ellis said the task force will be making an announcement on Wednesday about "concrete action" it is taking.

'THEY HAVEN'T REALLY STEPPED UP'

Last February, a new Transit Safety Plan was approved in Edmonton in an effort to improve safety and cleanliness on the system while providing mental health, housing and addictions support to people who need it.

"The disorder that we are seeing in our streets are a direct result of homelessness, addiction and mental health crisis that we are facing in our communities and I welcome the province's intervention in this," Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told reporters Monday.

"These are provincial responsibilities and they haven't really stepped up to provide necessary support to struggling Edmontonians and the impact is more disorder."

Sohi pointed out that city council has recently increased the police budget, is funding new safety and cleanliness programs in Chinatown and is hiring more peace officers and security officers for transit centres.

The mayor wants Alberta to increase the number of shelter spaces and supportive housing units in the city as well as improve access to mental health and addiction treatment programs.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson

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