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Calgary Transit is making strides in offering safer rides, officials say

The Calgary Transit system is much safer today than it was six months ago, according to Calgary police and the Chief Officer of transit safety.

They said it’s due to the investments and the collaborative effort between different law enforcement, transit and city council.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek rode Calgary Transit on Thursday with members of Calgary’s media from City Hall CTrain station to 4 Street SW station to discuss transit safety. Gondek was joined by Aaron Coon, Transit Chief Officer, Sharon Fleming, Calgary Transit Director, and Chad Tawfik, Calgary Police Deputy Chief.

Over the past year, several investments have been made, including the addition of more Calgary Transit Peace Officers, the hiring of additional security services, overnight patrolling – from four to seven nights per week – plus having corporate security extending their service area to nearby stations.

On top of that, the province had Alberta Sheriffs in the downtown core for a 12-week pilot that ended last month.

“The goal is for anyone at any time to feel that they can have reliable, dependable and safe transit service,” said Gondek

Gondek said that the city has made large investments in order to accomplish this goal. 

“An initial investment of about $32 million last summer, and [an] additional $33 million was invested in the four-year budget strategy for this year alone, said Gondek.”

The investments have also seen the renovation of infrastructure at transit stations, including better lighting, tactile strips, and the removal of excess waste and debris – plus, higher quality CCTV of the areas.

The mayor also highlighted the TextWatch system, where citizens text the 74011 number and will be connected to an agent at the Transit Operations Centre. From there, a transit peace officer will be dispatched to the needed location. If the situation escalates, police will be contacted and dispatched.

Mayor Gondek mentioned that one of her staff was in an unsafe situation but couldn’t remember the number. That resulted in cooperation to have the number posted inside LRT cars.

Working together has made an impact: Deputy Chief Tawfik

Deputy Chief Tawfik said there’s an increased effort in making sure that the right resources are being dispatched to the right type of calls. That could be peace officers, social agency workers, or Calgary police officers. He said they use enforcement and compassion where and when necessary.

“The importance of integration and how we work together, is critical to safety on transit,” said Tawfik.

Mayor Gondek said that the spike in incidents along transit lines was something very unexpected. However, working together between agencies and organizations will help get to the root of the problem. Gondek is also calling for transit users to report an issue if they see one. 

“When you report something, it can actually be dealt with,” she said.

Coon said with the investments, the partnerships and the multidisciplinary approach, Calgary Transit is safer today.

“We’re comfortable and confident that the work that we’re doing and the recommendations that we’re making… are having an impact. We are excited about the work that we’re doing right now with our partner agencies, so we are confident and comfortable that it is safer today than it was six months ago,” he said.

Tawfik said that within the police service community that a couple of months ago if an officer was present at a CTrain station, no one showed any concern. However, as of late, because of the conscious effort going into increasing security levels and response, if anyone is engaged in activity they shouldn’t be, they’re leaving. 

“[It’s] important for people to know, there will be accountability for activity that is illegal. Outside of that, let’s help people who need the help,” said Tawfik.