We’ve all been there.
It’s late at night and the C-Train platform is deserted, except for the sound of echoing footsteps that seem to be getting closer.
You take a furtive look into the shadows and you can’t help but wonder whether it’s just another rider like you or something more sinister.
The statistics show violent crime on transit property has dropped markedly, an amazing 38 per cent drop in the number of assaults in 2008 from its peak a year earlier.
But try making that case to the mother of a 17-year-old boy who was beaten so severely at the Canyon Meadows C-Train station on April 4 that he suffered a brain injury.
Or to the family of Arcelie Laoagan, whose brutal January 2008 slaying after she got off a train at the Franklin LRT platform and was jumped nearby sparked the city to undertake a massive safety audit of the entire system.
Waning levels of violence notwithstanding, it is with a growing sense of unease that Calgarians board the city’s transit system these days.
And that has at least one member of the city’s police commission considering handing over the reins of transit security to the Calgary Police Service.
Ald. John Mar said surveys show that Calgarians don’t feel safe riding the rails at night and the presence of well trained and properly equipped cops sharing the same cars may work wonders for transit users’ sense of security.
“I believe right now when you look at the statistics it is in everyone’s best interest that we look at how we’re policing the system,” he said.
“When you see a police officer you can’t help but feel safer and we need to look at the best practises of other cities to see what they’re doing.”
The notion of putting cops on buses and C-Trains isn’t a new one.
Last year I managed to see a secret report, dusted off by police Chief Rick Hanson, which called for his outfit to take over transit security.
The plan isn’t cheap.
For 70 new cops and a new district office that the report calls for, the city would need to drum up $9 million – that’s an approximate 1 per cent tax hike.
The current crop of 65 transit cops monitoring the system have some powers of arrest, but Mar said while a uniformed police presence may cost a bit more, the sense of relief for transit customers may be worth the extra cost.
“I think if you asked Calgarians, they would pay a little extra to feel safe,” he said.
– Chris Phalen has contributed to Avenue magazine, the Prince Albert Daily Herald, the Globe and Mail and various magazines; email@example.com.