Transit adds voice to call for national task force


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In the latest violence plaguing Winnipeg Transit, police arrested a woman accused of assaulting a bus driver and passengers — and another woman who stepped in to fight her.

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In the latest violence plaguing Winnipeg Transit, police arrested a woman accused of assaulting a bus driver and passengers — and another woman who stepped in to fight her.

Recent incidents — including the assault of a father and 10-year-old son, as well as an attack with a machete — have raised concerns among Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 and riders.

ATU 1505, which represents Winnipeg and Brandon bus drivers, said it is in full support of a call Wednesday by its national counterpart to have a task force set up involving all levels of government, transit agencies and the union to counter violence.

Officers were called at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday for a report of an intoxicated woman assaulting bus passengers and the driver, Winnipeg police said Wednesday.

The bus was stopped at John Forsyth Road and Ashford Drive, where officers found two women fighting.

Police learned one of the two got on the bus around St. Mary’s Road and Vivian Street and “became verbally abusive” with riders, before hitting a teen and the driver.

Once the bus stopped, most passengers and its driver fled. However, one woman stayed back and got into a violent argument with the first suspect, police said. Officers used a Taser on the second woman.

“Just last night, one of our operators had snowballs thrown at them by two youth, one had food thrown at them by six youth, and one had a female passenger reach around the shield and hit the operator, who then had to escape to safety through the driver’s window and call for help from their cellphone,” Chris Scott, president of the local union, said Wednesday in a statement.

“The escalating instances of violence against Transit workers and passengers is truly alarming.”

He was unavailable for an interview Wednesday due to meetings, a communications staffer said.

Scott said there needs to be more enforcement of a Criminal Code provision that requires courts to consider that an assault victim was a transit operator as an aggravating factor during sentencing.

“Put plainly, there needs to be harsher sentencing for assaults against transit workers, but really, the assaults need to be prevented in the first place,” Scott said in the statement.

The proposed national task force should consider whether de-escalation training, harsher penalties, increased mental health funding, better housing supports and greater police presence could help prevent such violence, the ATU national president told The Canadian Press.

The call from the ATU national union came after a number of high-profile violent incidents on or around Toronto’s transit system this week.

In Winnipeg, a 21-year-old woman will be charged with two counts of assault and one count of mischief under $5,000 for the Tuesday incident. A 24-year-old woman will be charged with assault.

Also Wednesday, police released information about a recent knifepoint robbery at a city bus stop.

Police said in a late afternoon news release officers were called to Chancellor Drive and Pembina Highway at about 10:40 p.m. Jan. 19. They found an 18-year-old woman who had been assaulted and robbed of her wallet and cellphone. The suspects fled on foot.

A canine unit police officer found her wallet nearby.

Investigators later identified two suspects, linking them to another bus stop robbery on Pembina in November.

An 18-year-old woman will be charged with two counts of robbery and one count of use of a credit card. A 19-year-old woman will be charged with the same offences, as well as possession of a weapon.

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

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