Edmonton man latest victim in string of violent events on Edmonton public transit
An Edmonton commuter said he's scared to use public transit after an LRT assault that sent him to hospital a few weeks ago.
Alex Baril-Blouin, a regular transit rider, was attacked at the Corona LRT Station on the evening of March 22. He said a man he didn't know hit him from behind with a squeegee, striking the side of his head and fracturing the bone around his right eye.
"[I was] getting off the LRT, when this man followed me and decided to attack completely unprovoked. We hadn't spoken at all prior to that," Baril-Blouin said. "I saw him out of the corner of my eye behind me, and before I could react or try to protect myself is when he struck me."
A couple nearby stayed with him and called for help. It took between five and 10 minutes for LRT security to attend to him, he added, and then another 15 to 20 minutes until EPS and paramedics arrived.
STRING OF VIOLENT EVENTS
The attack on Baril-Blouin is one of dozens of acts of violence that have taken place on ETS property in the past year, including a stabbing at a bus stop in west Edmonton and the robbery and assault of a woman at the Southgate LRT station - both of which included the use of bear mace.
- Edmonton mom says she was beaten, robbed in random attack outside LRT station
- Man stabbed, pepper sprayed in 'unprovoked' assault: police
- 'Sucker punched me': Edmonton man describes transit assault, asks for more provincial help
Recently, a 22-year-old man was stabbed at Clareview LRT Station in the middle of the day, and Friday, Edmonton police officers and tactical officers were called to the LRT near the University of Alberta Hospital after reports of a man carrying a gun. It's the same area where an Edmonton senior was pushed onto the tracks in 2022.
- No gun found at Health Sciences/Jubilee LRT station despite initial report: police
- Senior shoved onto Edmonton LRT tracks in 'violent unprovoked assault'
- Lunchtime stabbing at Clareview LRT Station under investigation
Baril-Blouin is still recovering from the assault, but while the swelling has gone, he said the emotional impact of the attack will remain long after the stitches have come out and the bruises have faded.
"How have I been ever since? Generally just a bundle of nerves," he said. "Even standing here right now kind of just gives me a feeling of apprehension and just overall dread."
"It's disheartening to know that grown adults all the way down to small children just aren't able to do their daily commute without being like, 'Is today the day that it happens to me. Is today the day that I suffer injuries and long-term trauma?'"
IMPROVING TRANSIT SAFETY
Coun. Tim Cartmell said he has received "a litany of complaints" about transit safety from Edmontonians.
"They've been threatened, they've been shoved, they've been injured, they've been yelled at. And quite frankly they're sick and tired of not feeling safe on their transit system," he added.
Cartmell said city council is trying to address those concerns and has recently allowed for more transit officers and expanded the community outreach transit team, which pairs transit peace officers with outreach workers to help vulnerable people connect with support resources.
While a three-year extension for the mandate was approved last week, Cartmell said it doesn't address the needs of transit riders now, as more teams take time to train and deploy.
"Those are long-term plays and long-term solutions," he added. "We need step-function solutions and we need them now. We need to restore confidence in our system.
"And I think we, the mayor and council, need to contemplate that."
Murtaza Haider, a director of urban analytics in Toronto (a city with its own transit safety woes), says crimes including violence in transit systems hurt ridership, which can in turn reduce the safety of the system.
Without any kind of standardized data collection, he said it's difficult to improve transit safety - whether perceived or real.
"The reality is that transit systems are safe," Haider said. "But the reality is that the reality gets compromised if the perception differs. And the perception gets influenced by one or [few] incidents of violent crime. . . that alone will do much more damage than a large number of smaller incidents."
Haider said standardized data about violent crimes on transit would benefit the public by giving them the information to make informed decisions about how they travel.
"[They could] avoid the place if they can, take a different route," he added. "Or travel in groups so that they can have security of strength in numbers."
That data can also be presented to municipal and provincial bodies, he added, to secure extra resources to improve safety of the transit system.
"Someone has to authorize the transit agency to deploy more police officers or security personnel, and that costs money," Haider said. "That would only happen if we have this data to demonstrate that there has been an increase in violent crimes on transit property."
Edmonton Police Service (EPS) statistics show a nearly 53 per cent rise in calls for violent crime within the Edmonton Transit System (ETS) between 2021 and 2022.
According to the EPS transit dashboard, so far in 2023, the MacEwan and Stadium transit centres have had the most occurrences involving violence, which make up around 38 per cent of calls to those stations.
The most reports of weapons have been at the Coliseum centre, with more than 13 per cent of 82 occurrences having a weapons violation.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nav Sangha
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