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City of Edmonton launching transit safety pilot project with police, Indigenous community

Click to play video: 'Edmonton launching pilot project with police, Indigenous community to improve transit safety' Edmonton launching pilot project with police, Indigenous community to improve transit safety
The City of Edmonton, Edmonton Police and Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society are teaming up in a new $3.9-million project aimed at making people feel more safe on the Edmonton Transit Service bus and LRT system. Sarah Ryan reports – Feb 24, 2022

With the unanimous support of council, the City of Edmonton will start a three-year pilot program aimed at improving safety in and around Edmonton Transit Service transit stations.

“We know that transit is a major priority, but in order to get that ridership up, we really need to make sure people are feeling safe and comfortable,” explained Ward Metis Coun. Ashley Salvador.

In a presentation to council on Thursday, Edmonton’s city manager Andre Corbould said in 2021, Edmonton’s transit peace officers were busy responding to more than 52,000 incidents.

In a recent survey, Corbould said 78 per cent of current bus and LRT riders said they were satisfied with their safety — down five per cent from 2015.

Read more: Riders call on City of Edmonton to do something about transit safety concerns

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Meanwhile, Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said the average crime severity is 12 per cent higher at LRT and bus stations compared to the citywide average.

McFee listed a number of crimes being reported by transit users, including personal robberies, assaults and weapon-related offences. Users have also reported open drug use on transit.

“[There’s an] influx of gangs, influx of people preying on our vulnerable people and have created serious, significant injury,” McFee said.
Click to play video: 'Peace officer unions sounding alarm over staffing, crime on Edmonton transit' Peace officer unions sounding alarm over staffing, crime on Edmonton transit
Peace officer unions sounding alarm over staffing, crime on Edmonton transit – Jan 10, 2022

A $3.9-million plan aims to address the problems by adding three more community outreach transit teams — pairs of workers from Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society and peace officers. They patrol the transit systems together.

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“It’s not just about enforcement, but it’s about connecting people with the supports and services they need,” Salvador said.

Edmonton currently has two of those teams. Working Monday to Friday since September, they’ve helped 800 people. The pilot project will increase their capacity.

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society launch community outreach transit team' City of Edmonton, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society launch community outreach transit team
City of Edmonton, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society launch community outreach transit team – Oct 28, 2021

“There is merit to working beyond these hours, especially on weekends, as many supports are more difficult to access during those times,” said Cheryl Whiskeyjack, Bent Arrow’s executive director.

Funding for the new teams will come from previously withheld police funds, pandemic response dollars and the city’s financial stabilization reserve.

Read more: Edmonton once again increasing safety and security measures on public transit

“We want to make sure we’re dealing with those perceptions of safety now, and I think this is a way to see that immediate action that has maybe been missing for a while,” Salvador said.

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She added it’s also important for the city to address the root causes of things like homelessness, mental health struggles and addictions.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton transit workers’ union concerned over rising crime and weapon complaints' Edmonton transit workers’ union concerned over rising crime and weapon complaints
Edmonton transit workers’ union concerned over rising crime and weapon complaints – Dec 18, 2021

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