In an effort to make riders feel safer on Edmonton transit, the city has announced a new, gender-based approach to safety.
Starting Friday, the Edmonton Transit Service will launch a Transit Watch text service that will allow riders to discreetly report any safety or security concerns on transit like harassment, disorder and suspicious behaviour.
Riders can text the existing Transit Watch phone number, 780-442-4900, and the message will be delivered directly to staff in the control centre 24/7.
The control centre will respond to the text and will send any appropriate resources.
“We’ve heard from women and girls about the importance of having a discreet way to report safety and security concerns on transit,” Carrie Hotton-MacDonald, director of business integration for ETS, said in a news release on Tuesday.
“This safety initiative provides another layer of reporting that will help empower our riders to report concerns.
Hotton-MacDonald said the system will have the added benefit of insight and data that will allow ETS to strategically deploy resources to the right place at the right time.
Since 2018, ETS has seen a 300 per cent increase in reporting incidents. The city points to improved surveillance, personnel presence and communication efforts that outline how to report concerns as reasons for the increase.
The city also reported a 30 per cent decrease in criminal occurrences and a 50 per cent decrease in mischief at LRT stations and transit centres with security guards.
In 2018, council invested $22 million in an effort to further enhance safety and security on transit.
“There’s still lots of work to do in our strategic safety plan, but I’m very proud of the community work we’re doing and the direction we’re taking,” Hotton-MacDonald said.
The city said it worked with community groups and agencies like the Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton, the ETS advisory board and members of the Edmonton Safe City Community Collaboration Committee to better understand the root causes of safety concerns that women and girls have.