EDMONTON - A $21.4-million investment in safety upgrades for Edmonton's transit system appears to be paying off, according to a report presented at city hall on Thursday.  

Among the initiatives implemented with the money set aside in October of last year, Edmonton Transit Service:

  • implemented private security personnel, transit peace officers and city police presence according to historical crime data and peak service hours;
  • increased personnel—for example, hiring about 100 security guards to patrol certain stations; and
  • trained operators to deal with situations that are difficult or dangerous.

ETS reported to the Community and Public Services Committee on Thursday that customer perception of safety increased, since making the changes, from 76 per cent last fall to 80 per cent by August.

And while calls to police in the first half of 2019 increased in comparison to 2018, the number of criminal occurrences decreased, the report says.

"Loitering, graffiti, things like that have gone down 52 per cent, and as well, our crimes at EPS level at transit stations have gone down 25 per cent," Eddie Robar, ETS branch manager, said.

In 2018, between January and July, 407 criminal code violations took place on transit property. For the same period of this year, police have counted 303 violations.

"We're just excited to share the message that things are getting better," Robar said.

Of the city's work to make the service safer, transit user Colby MacIntyre said, "I think whether it's been safer or not, it's made people perceive that it's safer."

Another user, Yinka Isola, echoed MacIntyre.

"It was 9 p.m., I was walking towards the train station and there was a guy that was coming close to me. I was really scared and I ran but this year it's been a lot different," Isola told CTV News Edmonton.

"It makes me feel better."

ETS also equipped its 1,038 buses with 6,543 security cameras, although that was not part of the $21.4-million plan.

It has plans to begin installing bus shields next month, and finish by mid-2020, and has its administration undergoing mental health training.

With a report from Amanda Anderson