Bystanders can help make Edmonton transit safer, new campaign vows

Alberta will be hiring 100 more police officers for transit safety in both Edmonton and Calgary. As Laura Krause reports, this comes as the city sees a rise in violent crime on transit.

By Kelsey Patterson and Laura Krause

Edmonton is launching a bystander awareness campaign with the goal of making transit safer.

The city says the program teaches bystanders “how to intervene in a way that is safe for them and for the individual being targeted.”

The campaign is part of a board approach to making transit safer, according to the city.

“There are real needs in our city,” Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said Tuesday. “Safety is becoming a real concern in our downtown, in public transit system and in Chinatown.

“We need to continue to provide a compassionate approach with comprehensive solutions, which policing is a part of that, but also interventions to connect people to services and programs, mental-health supports, addictions and recovery as well as treatment and harm-reduction facilities.”

The campaign, “One Strong Voice,” outlines six actions that bystanders can take based on the situation at hand.

“The campaign’s concept, One Strong Voice, speaks to the inner voice that tells us we should do something to help, but may need a little extra knowledge and confidence to take that first step,” Sarah Feldman, the director of business integration and workforce development with ETS, said in a statement.

The campaign will be present in transit centres, LRT stations, inside buses and trains, and on social media and radio.

The launch comes one day after the province announced 100 new police officers will be patrolling high-crime areas on city streets and transit stations – split between Edmonton and Calgary.

“We look forward to an ongoing collaboration with the Edmonton Police Service,” said Sohi. “They are integral to improving safety and wellbeing in Edmonton, and they go beyond serving Edmontonians with compassion and care. We look to further our collaborative efforts working with our peace officers and bylaw officers, and the Edmonton Police Service.”

In addition to more officers, Edmonton will receive $5 million from the province to keep transit a clean space from garbage and drug paraphernalia.

An additional $8 million over three years will be used to increase the number of police and crisis teams, also known as PACTS, which are made up of officers and mental-health therapists.

“We will continue to support Edmonton’s most vulnerable Edmontonians who end up in LRT stations because they don’t have other spaces to go to,” said the mayor. “And we will continue to connect them with programs and services that are necessary to get them better.”

people waiting for subway

People wait for train at Edmonton LRT stop on April 4, 2023. (Laura Krause/CityNews)

While he acknowledges it’s a significant investment, Sohi says the city will continue focusing on what he calls the root of the problem.

“Let me be clear, even with this additional funding, there are still changes that need to be dealt with,” he said. “We will continue to work with our partners and the provincial government on addressing long-term sustainable solutions, such as supportive housing and wraparound services to deal with mental health and the substance use crisis. This is something we will continue to advocate for.”

As for Edmonton’s peace officers, the UCP is asking the city to transfer control to EPS, allowing police to better respond to violent crime on transit.

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