There’s been recent finger-pointing over transit safety in our city between the transit union, the Edmonton Police Service and the City of Edmonton. But the ones who actually use transit just want something done about it before it gets worse.
Gloria Ducharme takes the bus and LRT every day to get to work downtown but she has reached her breaking point living in fear every morning and unsure of what might happen to her on transit.
“By the time you arrive at your office… you’re angry, you’re stressed, you’re frightened. Now I’ve got to go home at 4 o’clock,” Ducharme said. “Going to work should not feel like this.”
From being attacked to witnessing gang violence and drug use, she’s called the city multiple times with a list of complaints, to no avail.
“Edmonton transit has to make sure this service is safe. You wouldn’t allow these things to take place at a recreation centre or a football stadium,” Ducharme said.
“Edmonton transit is funded by the tax payers of Edmonton. It doesn’t support itself, there’s no way it possibly can.”
“Somebody has to take responsibility and they can’t keep passing the buck,” Ducharme said.
Peace officer unions sounded an alarm over staffing and crime on Edmonton Transit. Unions blame the scaling back of LRT patrols by Edmonton Police.
But Edmonton Police Association president S/Sgt. Michael Elliott said EPS has not reduced patrols and they’re answering all the calls.
He said staffing is an issue at all levels due to COVID-19.
“We’re having difficulties staffing the front line on a daily basis,” Elliott said.
Between July and December 2021, EPS attended 1,432 calls for service in the transit system. The busiest month was December 2021 with 313 calls for service.
Elliott said it’s up to the City of Edmonton to address safety issues, and a recent repeal of the loitering bylaw has also tied the hands of officers.
“If don’t have lawful placement and end up using force on somebody, then that’s deemed assault — so we’re really handcuffed,” the EPA president said. “Lets be responsible about this and try to come to the table and come to a resolution.
“But I can tell you that the current system is not working.”
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi is concerned about the ongoing safety issues and is looking to the province for more support while also taking into account bylaws and the budget.
“I think we might have to revisit some of our bylaws to insure our transit security officers are able to remove people from LRT stations,” Mayor Sohi said.
Sohi said the major reason for the spike in disturbances to the pandemic and less ridership, coupled with a dramatic increase in the vulnerable population.
“Those solutions are about healing people, it’s about providing them with long term support,” Sohi said. “It is not a resource issue: we allocated $20 million in 2018 to enhance safety and security on public transit.”
In response to the staffing impacts, the City of Edmonton said it “has formally requested extra duty detail resources for support from the EPS as of Jan. 6, 2022,” spokesperson Adrienne Cloutier said in a statement to Global News.