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Winnipeg looks at other cities for bus policing

Highly visible peace officers often used

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Winnipeg is studying other Canadian cities as it considers a more robust transit security system, including Edmonton

CHRIS SCHWARZ / POSTMEDIA NEWS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Winnipeg is studying other Canadian cities as it considers a more robust transit security system, including Edmonton

A proposal before the city would provide security aboard Winnipeg Transit buses. However, the details remain up for debate.

A report recommends the city hire six security officers who would be granted special constable status and enforce bylaws on transit routes. One councillor, however, said cadets could do the job for less.

The report lists several Canadian cities that already have similar programs in place that could be used as models for Winnipeg. Here are some of the programs mentioned:

 

Calgary

Calgary Transit employs a hybrid model in which security and fare evasion are handled by peace officers. They enforce bylaws, provide security and conduct fare-evasion checks.

"They basically have the authority to take care of about 95 per cent of the incidents that occur on Calgary Transit," said Brian Whitelaw, co-ordinator of Calgary Transit public safety.

Instead of guns, the officers carry pepper spray, batons, and handcuffs, Whitelaw said.

They take part in regular patrols on the transit system and can be dispatched because of an incident, which Whitelaw said happens about 20,000 times a year.

But more important than their responsibilities is their presence, Whitelaw said.

"A lot of what occurs on transit is not necessarily a crime, it's annoying, it's a nuisance, it can be frightening, which high-visibility patrols can alleviate quite a bit," he said.

The Calgary system uses what Whitelaw calls a broken-windows approach -- take care of the small things, such as broken windows in a neighbourhood, and big things, like drug trafficking, are reduced as well.

If an incident occurs on a transit route and an officer is not there, Whitelaw said operators or riders can notify Calgary Transit. In addition to calling 911 or the police, his department also monitors the Calgary Transit Twitter account for messages.

 

York, Ont.

When an incident occurs aboard York Region Transit (YRT), bus drivers can activate a silent alarm that notifies special constables as well as local police.

York employs a similar model to Calgary, using special constables to provide security as well as fare enforcement. But YRT also employs separate fare inspectors whose only job is to provide customer service and make sure transit riders are paying their fare, said Angelo Apfelbaum, YRT manager of transit enforcement.

The 19 special constables at YRT are Ontario peace officers. As in Calgary, the constables carry batons and pepper spray, as well as handcuffs.

And like Calgary, public visibility is an important part of their job, Apfelbaum said.

"They are the face of transit. They are the people in uniform who know what's going and people can approach," Apfelbaum said.

The constables are posted at "foot patrol posts" in the city, Apfelbaum said, and can also patrol routes in cars. They also ride on the routes themselves.

 

Ottawa

OC Transpo in Ottawa differs from York and Calgary in that its special constables do not check fares. Instead, they "patrol the transit system," as well as assist operators and customers, said Andrea Ruttan, media relations officer at the City of Ottawa, via email.

As in York, Ottawa's special constables are peace officers and can enforce various sections of the law including the criminal code and Ottawa transit bylaw.

Ruttan said the visibility of the officers is an important part of their job, but the intent of the program is more to assist local law enforcement and reduce how much work is put on the police.

"The intent of the Special Constable Program is to supplement the duty of law enforcement... involving lower-level crime or activities that may require law enforcement but not necessarily a police officer," Ruttan said.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2013 B2

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