A spate of incidents on board Winnipeg Transit vehicles has the bus drivers union calling for increased safety.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 president Romeo Ignacio said the recent violence — three passengers were assaulted in seven days, including two stabbings — is alarming, and he wants the city to step up.
"We’ve been talking about safety for how long, and nothing’s being done," he said Thursday.
"This week, it’s passengers that have been affected but there’s also an impact on our members... For the two stabbing incidents, I don’t think anyone would… have peace of mind coming back to work the next day and possibly encounter something bigger."
The union head is asking for the City of Winnipeg's transit advisory committee to support a Transit police force, as well as other safety measures, such as an app for bus drivers to report and track assaults.
A city spokesperson said it works with the transit committee and the union to investigate and evaluate new safety measures, and that bus operators are trained for emergencies.
The spokesperson noted a new pilot project involving 50 buses that will allow live security camera feeds to stream directly into the Control Centre in emergencies, and that the city has spent $5 million on transit security in recent years.
In 2020, there were about 90 assaults or threats of assault on drivers, according to Transit union numbers shared with the Free Press. As of the end of August 2021, there had been 59.
A man was stabbed during a fight between two males when a bus was in the area of Selkirk Avenue and McGregor Street at about 1:30 a.m. Sept. 17. The suspect fled, and the victim was taken to hospital in stable condition.
On Monday, Winnipeg police arrested Jessy Julio Storoszczuk, 28, of Winnipeg, and charged him with aggravated assault, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and failing to comply with a release order.
On Sept. 13, city police arrested a man after a 70-year-old woman was stabbed on a bus downtown the previous afternoon.
On Sept. 10, a woman in her 20s was robbed of her cellphone while riding on a bus in the afternoon. The suspect assaulted the victim when she tried to get the phone back and had to be taken to hospital.
The suspect got off the bus near McPhillips Street and Burrows Avenue. Police describe him as in his 30s with a medium build.
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.