Edmonton transit increases security, new community outreach teams to be implemented
EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) is continuing to implement further security measures to help increase rider safety.
Starting in May, teams of police and transit peace officers will conduct more regular patrols based on data of prior incidents.
The city says teams will be in addition to regular transit peace officers' regular patrols throughout the transit system.
In June, the city will launch new Community Outreach Transit Teams that pair transit peace officers with outreach workers to patrol, monitor, and respond to non-criminal situations.
The teams will help connect vulnerable populations with resources like housing, social support services, mental health supports, and connections to organizations providing food and clothing.
The city will trial the teams for two years as a pilot project.
Thursday’s announcement comes a month after ETS announced other security measures including increased security guards and more proactive transit patrols.
“The city is highly committed to providing safe public spaces for all Edmontonians,” ETS Branch Manager Carrie Hotton-MacDonald said in a media availability Thursday. “Our highest priority is the safety of the community, transit riders and transit staff.”
Community outreach teams deploying on transit has been utilized in Calgary, Hotton-MacDonald said, with success.
Funding for the new teams was approved in the city spring operating budget adjustment meeting earlier this month. The teams will cost $470,000 in the first year of operations and increase to $970,000 in their second year.
According to ETS, data from March 2021 indicates that over 80 per cent of incidents on transit are related to loitering, not wearing a mask or appropriate face covering, and trespassing.
ETS says less than one per cent of incidents are offences against another person.
The remaining 19 per cent of incidents includes smoking and liquor violations, parking violations, littering, and mischief.
A number of significant security incidents on public transit in Edmonton have recently occurred, including a stabbing of an international student last weekend and several hate-motivated attacks against Muslim women.
- Man arrested following stabbing at University LRT station
- Edmonton woman speaks out after 'hate-motivated assault' earlier this week
EPS data revealed on April 7 shows the types of crime occurring at transit centres between November 2020 and February 2021 is more severe than average.
“We are going to continue to meet these challenges head on,” Hotton-MacDonald said. “This really is a top a priority for me personally and for the entire branch of ETS.”
She added that while ridership numbers have dropped during the pandemic, as more people get vaccinated ETS hopes more people will use it.
“As ridership improves, there’s more eyes on the system that might deter some of the disorder,” Hotton-MacDonald said.