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Councillor suggests cadets as solution to transit crime

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Winnipeg Transit drivers reported 400 assaults from 2000 to 2012.

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Winnipeg Transit drivers reported 400 assaults from 2000 to 2012. Photo Store

Winnipeg police cadets -- not transit special constables -- are the ones who should patrol buses, a city councillor says.

Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands), the chairman of both the Winnipeg Police Board and the civic committee which oversees the Winnipeg Police Service, said not only does it make more sense to him that cadets should patrol buses, it would cost half as much as hiring six transit inspectors with special-constable training.

"The cadets make $13 to $15 per hour," Fielding said on Wednesday.

"The special constables would make $43.40 per hour. Cadets would be under half the cost, and the other advantage of using cadets is they are trained for this."

Fielding said if the main concern of bus drivers and their union is preventing drivers from being assaulted, then cadets are a good answer, as they are already trained in how to detain people.

Under the police-cadet program, which began three years ago, cadets are designated as special constables trained to enforce provincial statutes and bylaws, conduct foot patrols and direct traffic. The cadets are not armed with firearms or tasers, but can use handcuffs and batons.

The special constables Winnipeg Transit is looking at hiring, who would also be route inspectors, would be able to enforce a new transit bylaw that includes regulations regarding vandalism, panhandling, fare evasion and loitering. They would have the power to ban repeat offenders from using transit and fine people for fare evasion. They could also detain people until police arrive.

Earlier this week, the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents 900 bus drivers in the city, and the Winnipeg Labour Council urged councillors on a civic committee to give more power, including the ability to detain people, to the proposed special constables.

Increased patrolling on buses is under consideration because 400 drivers have been assaulted from 2000 to 2012, with 52 attacks occurring last year.

A city report says hiring six new special constables to join three existing foot-patrol/route inspectors would cost more than $531,000 per year. Half the bill would be picked up by the province.

Both the civic infrastructure renewal and public works committee and the executive policy committee have recommended the proposal be sent to next year's budget deliberations for a closer look.

A final decision will be made by city council next week.

But Fielding said even before looking at putting patrols on buses, councillors have to determine if it is a priority.

"There are scarce resources," Fielding said.

"I've got a lot of concerns with this going forward like this. I can't support it going forward."

Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), one of the councillors who has been pushing for months to give bus drivers more help against increasing violent incidents, said he's happy with either special constables or cadets.

"Transit consulted with the police on this. I didn't ask transit directly why not cadets, but (special constables) is what they came up with."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 20, 2013 B2

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