Bigger security presence planned for Edmonton’s transit system

A file photo of the Southgate Transit Centre in south Edmonton. Global News

You will soon see more of a security presence on the Edmonton transit system.

Plans were unveiled Wednesday as city council’s community services committee reviewed a report on LRT safety that was asked for by Councillor Michael Walters.

The report said 2,277 calls have been received and classified as crime or disorder either on trains or in LRT stations since 2015. That’s roughly three incidents for every 100,000 rides.

The numbers have been improving after police started the first LRT beat that year. It was made up of one sergeant and eight constables covering the entire system.

The new plan is to have Edmonton police officers and transit peace officers work in three-member units.

“We’re building that hybrid model right now,” said Insp. Derek McIntyre. “We just got through the enhanced security clearance process.

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“I would bet by the beginning of 2019 you’ll see a TPO (transit peace officer) and two police officers on the train.”

Walters’ inquiry came as a crime trend began to grow in and around Southgate Station.

“I’m happy for my own kids to ride the train,” he said of his 12- and 14-year-old children.

“This is not about fear of violent crime, which we’ve seen has dropped considerably. It’s about the social disorder and the property crime that’s occurring around stations that we need to get a handle on because that’s creating a lot of anxiety for neighbourhoods and citizens, both riders of the train and people living near the train.”

READ MORE: More Edmonton LRT station, transit passenger security improvements recommended in city report

Walters believes an increase in drug addiction among young people is leading to more property crime. He said social disorder is happening as well in the mall.

“We have to react to it and we have to add more resources, if necessary, to deal with it,” he told reporters.

McIntyre suggested there’s a link between the problems and how much the Southgate transit station has grown.

“It’s a large bus exchange and an LRT exchange. It just means there’s more people there and when you look at crime per population information, the more people that you have, you will have higher reported crime.”

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During budget deliberations, the plan is to increase staffing over the next four years. Edmonton Transit Service general manager Eddie Robar said he’ll get eight more peace officers to coincide with the 2020 opening of the Valley Line LRT.

McIntyre said police too will be looking to redeploy more resources.

“We’re growing this infrastructure. Do we need to grow the security presence through the police and through the transit peace officers on the LRT? I believe that we do, as one of the leaders in relation to the LRT beat team.

“I think it is time that we have that conversation around if the system gets bigger, do we need to commit resources to keeping it safe?”

READ MORE: City of Edmonton staff look to improve safety at LRT stations

Councillor Tony Caterina wants ridership and crime data reviewed annually. He’s also signalled that during budget talks this fall, he’ll be watching to see more money put into prevention.

“I will throw something on the table this November. We’ve seen the success of the police program, having that pilot go to a permanent status.”

Caterina said he also wants physical improvements to the older stations on the Capital Line.

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“Whether we can or can’t, that’s another thing. Those are things that hopefully, with the [city] charter discussion that we are talking to the province about, will allow us to maybe allocate some of those funds to regular maintenance of existing stations.”

The report called for improved lighting to improve safety conditions.

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