Transit safety could be used as leverage to increase Edmonton police budget: CTLA

Edmonton transit has recently been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. But one organization says, according to ETS data, police are overblowing transit safety concerns to push for more resources. Chris Chacon explains.

The topic of transit safety and disorder has been top of mind for many people in Edmonton recently, but the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association said, according to Edmonton Transit Service data, it may not be as bad as people think.

“The rate of transit disorder on Edmonton Transit Service has been fairly steady, which sort of tends to contradict the public perception that there’s this escalating crisis on transit,” Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association (CTLA) policing committee member Chris Wiebe said.

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This point and many more were outline in a CTLA release.

But the Edmonton Police Service said its data paints a much different picture.

“Between Jan 1 and March 31 there’s been a 24 per cent increase of violence and weapons on the LRT and the transit, and between those same dates there’s been 842 calls of service to the LRT and transit,” president of the Edmonton Police Association Michael Elliott said.

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The CTLA has been pointing the finger at Elliot, saying he’s been sharing online posts which create transit fear ever since council voted not to increase the police budget by as much as anticipated.

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“The Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association anticipates that transit safety will be a significant point of leverage for the EPS when they negotiate their budget with city council later this month,” Wiebe said.

A statement from Edmonton police did not address CTLA claims that police would leverage safety concerns for more funding, but said: “Police-required occurrences on transit have increased in number and average severity, and supports the concerns raised by transit riders and the community.”

The statement went on to say: “Concerns regarding transit safety have become part of a community-wide conversation that is not limited to police, and these concerns remain part of a broader community safety issue that the EPS will work with its partners to address.

“We cannot speak to ETS data; however, reporting crime is integral to our operations, and thanks to Transit Security and Transit Peace Officers that have reported incidents to police, the EPS now has reliable insight that will assist with the allocation of current resources going forward.”

Elliott said if he were responsible for the budget, he would focus on a lot more than just transit safety.

“If I was so concerned about the budget, I would be advocating on every aspect. I know that spousal abuse is up, child exploitation is up,” Elliott said.

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The CTLA said it believes allocating more money to EPS is not an effective way of improving transit safety.

It adds it would rather see funds go to shelters, community outreach teams and hopes there is more data and information before rushing back a transit loitering bylaw that could hinder transit safety.

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