Special constables with powers of arrest are being credited for a nearly one-third drop in crime rates on Ottawa’s transit routes.
While ridership is up by almost four million trips, overall crime is down by 32 per cent along OC Transpo bus routes and on the O-Train — a statistic that’s being largely attributed to the introduction of Transit Special Constables in April 2007.
Although the number of service calls increased by 3,958 in 2007 to 12,562, there were 201 fewer criminal charges laid. John Jensen, Ottawa’s manager of transit support, said those numbers represent a success for the program.
“That means to us that there is an increased level of safety because the calls we’re getting are less severe,” he said.
Jensen said special constables’ higher profile, and the fact they have police-like powers to make arrests, are likely acting as a deterrent to criminal activity.
Special Constable Jim McIntyre said the power to arrest people and access to the same criminal databanks as Ottawa Police use has made it easier to keep order.
McIntyre, who was previously employed as a transit security guard, said having authority to be able to respond instantly to situations means constables can sometimes nip criminal activity before it even begins.
Previously, he said, security guards could only try to detain offenders and call police to deal with them.
Becky Astor, a commuter Metro spoke with at the Albert-Metcalfe bus station yesterday, said special constables have not been intrusive, but it’s good to know they’re there.
“I haven’t had any interaction with them so far, but I’ve seen them around on the buses,” she said. “I guess it makes me feel safer.”
There are 41 constables now on duty. Jensen said crime statistics and the performance of the program will dictate whether the program is expanded.
Alain Mercier, director of transit services, said security remains a priority, especially at night for people working or studying late.
OC Transpo will next year be establishing safety zones at transit stations that are well lit, monitored by surveillance cameras and have emergency phones installed.