The city’s top public officials — including Mayor Stephen Mandel and police Chief Mike Boyd — affirmed their commitment to transit safety Thursday, implementing a zero-tolerance policy after a rash of recent assaults on public transit.
Over 75 incidents — ranging from drivers being spat at to seriously injured — were reported in 2009.
An increase in the severity of recent attacks is the catalyst for tighter security measures, said general manager of city transportation Bob Boutilier.
“Our operators need to know they’re safe,” he said.
In addition to four recent violent attacks on bus drivers, cab drivers, road construction workers and others have been victimized while on the job.
“Unfortunately, we have to take action with the few idiots that create this kind of problem,” he said. “It’s public disregard for any kind of authority.”
New and improved-upon security features will include an enhanced radio system, GPS vehicle location, more CCTV security cameras on board and ever-increasing peace officer presence.
The city will continue to install and test driver shields until summer, when the issue will be brought before council. Shields aren’t an end-all solution, Boutilier said, as they hinder driver and passenger interaction, can restrict airflow and pose risks in the event of an accident.
“(Drivers) don’t want to be stuck in a cage because of the behaviour of some bad people,” Boutilier said.
Boyd vowed to assign the EPS’s most senior investigators to future incidents, and to work hand-in-hand with Crown counsel to prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law. “We don’t have a big problem in Edmonton compared to other cities. We’re not going to wait for it to get to another level. People should be able to work and do it safely. I don’t care if it’s one incident or 100, it’s too many.”