The time has clearly come to emphasize community policing and fare and bylaw enforcement on our transit system.
Generally speaking there are three groups of people that occupy our transit centres. Transit users. Criminals. And vulnerable persons with nowhere else to go.
Turnstiles at our LRT stations - combined with fare enforcement - would ensure that most of the people on the platform are there to catch a train.
Police presence on those platforms - a return of the LRT beat cops - would ensure that the criminals go somewhere else.
Those that need proper shelter, that need a supervised consumption site (with a healthcare presence) - those that truly need our help - are then more easily seen, and more easily supported.
A good friend of mine used to walk a beat on Whyte Ave. He knew the shopkeepers, those living on the street, the gang members, the truly dangerous. Walking his beat, he was able to build relationships and create an equilibrium where most people felt safe most of the time.
I truly believe that we can achieve the same outcomes on transit.
But it takes EPS. They are the only service that carries the full authority required to generate a visible deterrent to crime and disorder.
I know this approach is not popular with some. Many advocates in Edmonton will tell you that more police and more enforcement will do more harm than good.
We need to stop blaming the police for everything. They have a critical role, which starts with creating a safe space for everyone. We need to utilize our professional service wisely.
There are those that use drugs in transit centres specifically because there are some people around and specifically because there is no police presence. More police on transit may compel those to use in more secluded spaces, which increases the risk of a fatal overdose.
Isn’t this what supervised consumption sites are for?
There are those that say a police officer, with a gun and a badge, is triggering for those that have had very negative experiences in their past. This is why partnerships with social and health agencies are critical.
We need to remember that without police present, the criminal element moves in. And the first persons victimized are those same vulnerable individuals.
I said in my previous blog that it’ is time that the Mayor and Council took concerns about transit safety much more seriously. I absolutely include myself in that comment, I am equally responsible.
Council has taken some actions. More Transit Peace Officers and outreach teams. Bylaw amendments. investment tens of millions in housing, homelessness prevention and crisis diversion.
All this with the intent of using enforcement as a last resort, which has rendered ourvarious bylaws and the conduct expectations contained within them meaningless.
The police statistics and that ETSAB report I referenced in my previous blog were a clear indication that this approach has not worked. Things are bad and getting worse.
Is more police presence, more enforcement a panacea that cures all ills? Not by a long shot.
Would such an approach have other consequences? Absolutely.
Will more police simply result in criminals and bad actors going to some other location? Probably.
But we have to start somewhere. Continuing to allow ourselves to be paralyzed by potential negative consequences is not acceptable. The LRT, as a critical means of transportation for so many working people, families and students must be safe.
There is a greater-good question here - what next step will have the most benefit for the most people?
Let’s start by making transit safe for most of the people most of the time. And that means accountability and enforcement. And if there are negative consequences from such action, then let’s address those in turn.
Part 3 coming soon
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