Edmonton council react to transit safety report: ‘It’s a little slow getting started’

Click to play video: 'Edmonton city councillors react to transit safety report' Edmonton city councillors react to transit safety report
For months, Edmonton transit riders have been sharing concern with safety on the LRT. In February the city approved a transit safety plan and now there’s an update on how much progress has been made. As Sarah Reid explains, city councillors and victim's families both agree that changes aren't coming fast enough – May 20, 2022

Edmonton city council has received a report outlining the changes that have been made since it approved a transit safety plan in February.

“It’s a little slow getting started,” said Coun. Tim Cartmell.

“We’re still trying to recruit and train up people to fill out those new community transit teams. We’re so anxious to see those actually be fruitful and have more people out there.”

Read more: Troubled Transit: State of Edmonton’s LRT system frustrates, shocks riders

The city is hiring more people to be part of its Community Outreach Transit Teams, as well as a director of transit safety.

Following the number of stabbings and assaults that have happened at LRT stations in recent months, riders have been vocal about the concerns they have over safety while using Edmonton’s transit system.

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Read more: Edmonton senior shares terrifying LRT station encounter: ‘I was screaming for help’

One of those people has been Ram Mudalier. In April, his sister Sharda Devi Naidu was pushed off a platform at the Health Sciences/Jubilee LRT station by a stranger.

The nearly 80-year-old senior suffered a badly broken leg and has been recovering in hospital ever since.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton senior recounts terrifying LRT station encounter near University of Alberta' Edmonton senior recounts terrifying LRT station encounter near University of Alberta
Edmonton senior recounts terrifying LRT station encounter near University of Alberta – May 2, 2022

“At that age, and with the damage that has been done, it will take quite a few months for her to recover,” Mudalier said, adding he believes she will remain in hospital for at least another five to six months.

Despite his sister’s injuries, Mudalier is happy with the efforts city council is making.

The city’s plan included making changes to transit peace officer deployment. It said the new model will see 35 per cent of officer resources dedicated to foot patrol, and community outreach by July. Some of those changes come into effect on May 22.

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Read more: Search for solutions: How do Edmonton leaders improve the LRT system?

Following the long weekend, riders should expect to see an increased presence of peace officers patrolling stations between 7 a.m. and 1 a.m.

“When the people who are trying to create problems see more safety officers, it will prevent them from doing it anywhere and everywhere,” Mudalier said.

Despite the transit safety plan being implemented, reports about drug use and poisonings in facilities have continued.

From January to March 2022, 227 reports were submitted to transit. In the six weeks before the transit safety report was released, security guards deployed naloxone more than 50 times in transit facilities.

Read more: ‘Ugly side of convenience’: Neighbours near Edmonton LRT station weigh benefits

Cartmell said he is hearing from those that he represents that they do not want Edmontonians who are suffering from addiction or mental health struggles to be shamed or over-prosecuted, but also want to see a return to a level of accountability.

“There is an expectation that urination, defecation, vandalism, and using in public spaces is not acceptable, and we expect a certain level of personal conduct from all of us.”

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Cartmell is hoping the city’s efforts will help prevent future incidents.

“I hope we see, ultimately, that people find this a safe place to be, a safe place to spend their money and their time,” said Cartmell.

“We also want to see the amount of anecdotal information we get about it being unsafe and unwelcoming goes down.”

Until further changes are made and the impacts are become apparent, Mudalier is reminding transit users to be aware of their surroundings and travel in groups if possible.

Read more: Transit safety could be used as leverage to increase Edmonton police budget: CTLA

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