Advertisement

Edmonton police, city maintain transit is safe in spite of violent attacks

Edmonton police on transit safety: crime numbers low when officers present, but can’t afford 24/7 coverage
WATCH ABOVE: While talking about safety on Edmonton transit, EPS Insp. Derek McIntyre said crime is low when peace and police officers are present, however increasing blanket coverage to 24/7 would be untenable. Instead, police use data to deploy staff to areas as needed.

Multiple stabbings, brutal beatings, and being kicked down a long set of stairs: this is just a snapshot of the violence that has happened on Edmonton Transit Service buses, LRT trains and stations in recent years.

That being said, the city stresses transit is safe in Edmonton overall, and “one act of violence is one too many.”

Gord Cebryk, deputy manager of city operations, said annually, there are approximately 87 million trips on transit in Edmonton. So far in 2018, there have been about 65 million. In all those trips, there have been 2,072 calls to police for help on transit  – and from those calls, 203 criminal investigations were launched.

“So when you do the math, a very, very small percentage of those transit trips result in an incident,” Cebryk said. “However, again, one incident is too many.”

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: Gord Cebryk said of the tens of millions of trips on Edmonton transit this year, only a few hundred calls to police have resulted in criminal investigations.

Millions of trips on Edmonton transit and only a handful of incidents
Millions of trips on Edmonton transit and only a handful of incidents

After a series of high-profile incidents, Cebryk and Edmonton police held a news conference Friday to talk about transit security.

The city has security cameras at all 26 transit stations in Edmonton, as well as on a number of buses. Cebryk said cameras will be installed on all remaining ETS buses by the end of this year.

“Cameras are only one tool —there are many tools in terms of building a safe transit system. In terms of on their own, you can’t have just one component on its own achieve what your outcome is,” Cebryk said.

“It’s awareness, it’s security measures such as shields, such as camera systems, and presence on transit properties. You have to look at, globally, how you put all those pieces together and that net impact is a much safer system.”

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: Gord Cebryk said the city is taking a ‘holistic’ approach when deciding between bus shields and hiring more security officers to increase safety, and it doesn’t come down to “one or the other.”

Transit safety: City of Edmonton taking ‘holistic’ approach when deciding between bus shields and hiring more security officers
Transit safety: City of Edmonton taking ‘holistic’ approach when deciding between bus shields and hiring more security officers

Cebryk said staff take a close look crime data when deciding how to deploy more security resources on Edmonton transit. He also said it doesn’t come down to “one or the other” when deciding between installing bus safety shields or hiring more officers, because the city wants all safety measures put in place.

WATCH: Gord Cebryk said staff take a close look crime data when deciding how to deploy more security resources on Edmonton transit.

City of Edmonton uses data to decide where transit security measures are implemented
City of Edmonton uses data to decide where transit security measures are implemented

Cebryk said bus driver training will also be examined to emphasize techniques to de-escalate dangerous situations.

Story continues below advertisement

“We don’t have all of the specifics of what a training plan would look like. We do know that it would be inclusive of all of our operators.”

Edmonton police officers were called to the Mill Woods Transit Centre just before 4 a.m. Wednesday. September 26, 2018.
Edmonton police officers were called to the Mill Woods Transit Centre just before 4 a.m. Wednesday. September 26, 2018. Dave Carels, Global News

The most recent incident happened early Wednesday morning when a bus driver was stabbed 13 times at the Mill Woods Transit Centre. He was expected to be released from hospital that same day, however his union president said the 65-year-old remains in hospital because a stab wound in his leg has become infected.

READ MORE: 15-year-old charged with attempted murder after Edmonton bus driver stabbed

WATCH: A teen has been charged after an Edmonton bus driver was stabbed this week. On Friday, the City of Edmonton held a news conference to address safety on public transit in Alberta’s capital. Kent Morrison reports.

City of Edmonton looks to make public transportation safer
City of Edmonton looks to make public transportation safer

A 15-year-old boy is facing attempted murder and aggravated assault charges, as well as theft of a motor vehicle. Police said they arrested the teen while he was sitting in the driver’s seat of the transit bus.

Story continues below advertisement
Bystanders helping an injured man at the South Campus LRT station in south Edmonton, Alta. on Tuesday, September 18, 2018.
Bystanders helping an injured man at the South Campus LRT station in south Edmonton, Alta. on Tuesday, September 18, 2018. Supplied
The South Campus LRT station was closed Tuesday morning due to a serious incident. September 18, 2018.
The South Campus LRT station was closed Tuesday morning due to a serious incident. September 18, 2018. Fletcher Kent, Global News
The South Campus LRT station was closed Tuesday morning due to a serious incident. September 18, 2018.
The South Campus LRT station was closed Tuesday morning due to a serious incident. September 18, 2018. Fletcher Kent, Global News
The South Campus LRT station was closed Tuesday morning due to a serious incident. September 18, 2018.
The South Campus LRT station was closed Tuesday morning due to a serious incident. September 18, 2018. Courtesy: Julian Rossi
The South Campus LRT station was closed Tuesday morning due to a serious incident. September 18, 2018.
The South Campus LRT station was closed Tuesday morning due to a serious incident. September 18, 2018. Courtesy: Julian Rossi
The South Campus LRT station was closed Tuesday morning due to a serious incident. September 18, 2018.
The South Campus LRT station was closed Tuesday morning due to a serious incident. September 18, 2018. Courtesy: Julian Rossi

Violence isn’t limited to transit employees. Earlier this month, a 19-year-old man was randomly stabbed on the platform of the South Campus LRT station during the busy morning commute.

A 24-year-old man was charged with several offences including attempted murder, aggravated assault, two counts of robbery, escaping custody, and assaulting and disarming a peace officer.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Charges laid after stabbing at South Campus LRT station; police say bystanders saved victim

WATCH: EPS Insp. Derek McIntyre said calls to police are down, while execution of outstanding arrest warrants is up.

EPS on transit safety and LRT beat team: service calls down, warrant arrests up
EPS on transit safety and LRT beat team: service calls down, warrant arrests up

Edmonton police Insp. Derek McIntyre said since a dedicated LRT beat team was created in 2015, calls for service have dropped — while at the same time, there’s been an increase in outstanding arrest warrants being executed.

“They do work very hard, proactively, to make sure people feel safe — that they do see the police,” McIntyre said. “We work in partnership with the [Transit Peace Officers], we work in teams on the trains and on the platforms, and our ultimate concern is in relation to keeping the transit system safe.
Story continues below advertisement

“It is safe, it can get safer, we can always provide better policing services and we do commit to doing that,” he said, adding practices are re-evaluated after every significant incident like Wednesday’s attack in Mill Woods, and the stabbing at South Campus station.

WATCH: A 19-year-old man was stabbed while waiting for the LRT at South Campus station and police said the attack was random and the violence didn’t end there. Fletcher Kent reports.

Man hospitalized after stabbing at South Campus LRT station
Man hospitalized after stabbing at South Campus LRT station

Earlier this year, Edmonton police laid 460 charges against a large group of men and boys, mainly teenagers, believed to be responsible for nearly 100 violent robberies, thefts and attacks at places throughout the LRT system, at various recreation centres and malls in the city between January 2017 and March 2018.

READ MORE: Edmonton police announce hundreds of charges laid against 32 teens, 2 men for thefts and attacks on transit

Incidents were reported at the Belvedere, Southgate and Century Park LRT stations, various convenience and grocery stores, as well as the Clareview, Terwillegar and Saville recreation centres.

Story continues below advertisement

In March of this year, a mob of teens swarmed of two boys at the Century Park LRT station, resulting in one needing stitches in his head.

In January, a 46-year-old woman suffered serious internal injuries after being kicked down a flight of stairs at the Belvedere LRT station during a random assault.

WATCH: Surveillance video of a shocking attack at the Belvedere LRT station in January, when woman was kicked down the stairs by a youth. (WARNING: This video may be disturbing to some viewers)

Woman kicked down stairs at Edmonton LRT station
Woman kicked down stairs at Edmonton LRT station

McIntyre said the numbers show crime is low when peace and police officers are present on transit, however blanket coverage isn’t realistic.

“When you think of how large the transit system is in Edmonton, it becomes untenable to think that for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that we would have the capacity to put police and peace officers on every bus, on every LRT station.”

Story continues below advertisement

Instead, police use data to deploy staff to areas as needed.

“We use our analytics and we use our data to deploy smartly, in a way that Edmontonians would believe that the money that they are investing in policing and in transit security is being spent wisely.”

READ MORE: Bigger security presence planned for Edmonton’s transit system

Mark Tetterington, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 which represents ETS operators, said he has had talks with the city this week and the takeaway is safety shields for late-night operators and beefed-up security at transit centres.

“All these late night shifts starting after six o’clock and the early morning ones, I think it’s essential to have that safety for all our operators,” he said on Friday. Tetterington also want to see more peace officers on LRT trains.

He says violence towards drivers is getting worse, and doesn’t think any security measures are too much if it means keeping transit employees safe.

“We’ve had two very, very serious assaults — including this one — over the last two months,” Tetterington said on Wednesday, adding another transit driver was beaten up at the Lewis Farms Transit Centre in the west end in the summer.

According to a report released earlier this year, there were 130 cases of assault against transit operators between 2015 and early 2018. Tetterington said operators have become more apprehensive about working nights, especially on certain bus routes.

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: The City of Edmonton spoke to the media on Friday morning about what can be done to protect drivers and passengers on public transit. Kent Morrison reports.

Edmonton addressing safety on public transit
Edmonton addressing safety on public transit