Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City considers transit cops

Current staff can't detain offenders

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WINNIPEG Transit has been asked to figure out whether it can expand the role of its inspectors to provide more security for bus drivers and passengers.

Council's public works committee voted Tuesday to hold off on approving a report about safety on buses until transit officials explore the idea of granting more power to 13 supervisors who currently have the task of responding to incidents on buses.

In effect, the city is being asked to consider creating transit cops.

The committee asked transit in April to develop a strategy to keep drivers and passengers safe in light of concerns about the number of assaults against bus drivers. An average of 63 assaults have been recorded every year since 2009, when the city began including incidents in which drivers were threatened or spat upon, said Winnipeg Transit director Dave Wardrop.

In response, Winnipeg Transit recommended changing camera angles on buses to better capture incidents of assaults against drivers.

On-board surveillance cameras do not record the bus driver's compartment, which means cameras may miss some assaults.

A report published last month said expanding camera angles would produce more evidence to investigate assaults when they occur.

That tactic did not go far enough for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, whose advocates appeared before the public works committee on Tuesday to ask for more security measures.

David Sauer of the Winnipeg Labour Council suggested Winnipeg Transit install decals warning transit riders of the potential fines for assaulting drivers -- a move taken by transit services in other cities.

Sauer also recommended expanding the role of transit inspectors, who don't have the power to detain offenders. Those inspectors are not represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union, but by the Winnipeg Association of Public Service Officers, or WAPSO, which had not been consulted about such a move.

As a result, the public works committee -- councillors Dan Vandal (St. Boniface), Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge), Brian Mayes (St. Vital) and Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan) voted to set aside the bus-security report until October and asked transit to speak with WAPSO.

Hiring enough inspectors to cover all of transit's operating hours may cost more than $400,000 in staff and vehicle costs, Wardrop said.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2012 B1

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