The union representing thousands of transit workers is sounding the alarm over safety concerns. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 569 said a spike in crime and reported weapon complaints is leading to a drop in ridership.
Jorg Schlagheck has been riding transit for more than 10 years, but lately he’s been using ETS less. He’s been harrassed and witnessed open drug use.
“I don’t want to be in the situation where I have a knife up to my throat or a gun to my head just because I’m riding the train and I look at somebody the wrong way,” Schlagheck said.
Schlagheck said he doesn’t feel safe anymore.
“You just never know what you have to expect, what’s going to come up at you when you’re on the train and even in the stations,” he said.
President of ATU Local 569 Steve Bradshaw said concerns of transit safety is nothing new but, as of late, the union said it has seen more incidents.
“Assaults on the station platforms are up where it’s wide open. They are not down they are up: weapons use is up, drug us is up,” Bradshaw said.
He said so far this year there have been almost 400 weapons complaints on transit, an increase from 319 last year.
Edmonton Police Association president Sgt. Michael Elliott said there was 14 weapon complaints involving bear spray, knives and guns this week.
“(Officers) were responding to a female that was high on drugs. They went check on her from a wellness perspective and they had to call EMS for an overdose and she had loaded revolver on her persons,” Elliott said.
The police association president said EPS is overwhelmed with the number of calls and fears transit workers don’t have the equipment to protect themselves and riders.
“I would not recommend to my family and my friends to take the LRT at this time. I deem it unsafe,” he said
The city said it takes the safety of riders, staff and contracted workers on site seriously, and that there are safety protocols in place.
In addition to the 3,800 security cameras, the city said it has requested an increase in patrols.
And back in September it launched the community outreach transit teams, an initiative to help vulnerable people needing specialized supports.
But despite those efforts, for Schlagheck it’s not enough.
“I honestly don’t feel comfortable on the transit anymore, I think the problem has gotten worse,” Schlagheck said