Calgary Approves Public Transit Safety Strategy Amid Rising Crime Incidents

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City Council of Calgary greenlit a public transit safety strategy on Tuesday, in response to surge in crime incidents along train lines and bus routes, marking a significant step forward in ensuring public safety.

“The newly endorsed strategy allows for improved response times, ensuring rapid resolution of issues encountered by Calgarians. Beyond this, it facilitates effective control of areas and promotes coordinated actions,” said Calgary Transit’s director, Sharon Fleming. She added that the strategy would ensure the constant availability of officers within the transit system.

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Despite its unanimous endorsement, the strategy’s hefty $15-million budget requires council’s approval as part of the upcoming November budget adjustment process. Nonetheless, the city commenced the project, courtesy of an $8.7-million operational budget sanctioned by the council in June.

The safety strategy revolves around a multidisciplinary approach, deploying integrated teams of uniformed Calgary police, transit peace officers, and security guards at high-risk locations. Troublesome hubs like the Westbrook, Downtown, and Whitehorn LRT stations are set to witness boosted patrols.

Aaron Coon, city’s head of public vehicle standards, shared the city’s intent to adopt a compassionate approach, particularly catering to the more vulnerable population who resort to using transits as shelter. Anticipating a complete strategy rollout within 18 months, Coon declared imminent patrol augmentations at the three hub locations.

Coon further remarked, “Our peace officers are currently coordinating with the city’s corporate security to ensure that patrols at the three hubs are implemented by December. We strive to achieve a response target time of ten minutes and needed adequate resources in place to do so.”

Additionally, the strategy includes thorough training for frontline staff to enhance safety, investments in community programming for a worthwhile transit experience, and measures to improve cleaning standards at stations while discouraging negative conduct.

Calgary Police Service’s Deputy Chief, Chad Tawfik expressed that through increased visibility of response teams and modernizing communication systems, emergent response times will reduce significantly.

According to Tawfik, “Public transit – the lifeblood of any major city, mirrors a cardiovascular system, and its safety echoes vitality and well-being. So rightly, public safety in Calgary is bound up in the safety of the transit system. As crucial collaborators in public transit safety, the Calgary Police Service will work diligently to prioritize and optimize our efforts, targeting the areas in direst need. Together, we will foster a safer Calgary.”

An extensive survey conducted in Calgary during Fall 2023 raised eyebrows as it spotlighted public safety’s perception as a key issue for city-dwellers. The findings revealed a mixed bag of attitudes, expressing citizens’ concern about public transit safety, downtown safety issues, general city safety, and crime rate trends in the neighbourhood over the past three years.

Staggering survey figures, however, were not surprising for Calgarians like Alison Anderson, particularly after her son’s terrifying encounter with a gun-toting individual on a late-night bus ride home. Even though the perpetrator, arrested subsequently in connection with the incident, was found possessing a BB gun instead of a firearm, the incident recalled chillingly the pressing need for elevated security presence and regular check-ins on transit.