Security needed to address sense of ‘lawlessness’ on Metro Vancouver buses: union

There is a sense of “lawlessness” on Metro Vancouver buses that needs a “cultural shift” to address a spate of bus violence in B.C. and beyond, the head of a bus drivers union says .

Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said violence has increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in Metro Vancouver and other transit systems across Canada.

McGarrigle said in an interview Thursday that the cultural shift requires a more visible and consistent presence of traffic police and security on buses, not just at junctions.

His comments come amid the stabbing death of a 17-year-old man on a Surrey bus on Tuesday, the shooting on a Calgary bus that left a man wounded on Wednesday, and the recent weeks of busts in Edmonton and Toronto. Published after multiple incidents of violence.

McGarrigle said it was “infuriating” to hear Metro Vancouver Transit Police say they covered an area of ​​1,800 square kilometers this week, so enforcement must be targeted.

The region’s public transit system is “the backbone of our economy, and saying you don’t have enough resources to make sure passengers and staff feel safe is like saying you put buses with no tires on the road,” he said.

The lack of safety made the bus feel “almost like a lawless environment,” McGarrigle said.

The Metro Vancouver Transit Police Service said officers are deployed across the system based on intelligence reports and crime statistics.

“This usually puts us close to SkyTrain,” the service said on its website, referring to train services in the area. “However, Transport Police respond to incidents on all modes of transport and we work with Transport Safety who are focused on ensuring the safety of buses and SeaBus.”

Police have stepped up patrols on buses and trains after the 17-year-old was killed this week, Gov. David Eby said Thursday.

He said the teenager’s death was every parent’s nightmare.

Eby said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth was contacting transport authorities and police to see if more resources were needed to ensure safety.

McGarrigle said the teen’s death was “horrible” and he feared any increased security presence, especially on buses, would disappear again.

“Our members are traumatized, our passengers are impacted, and this overall feeling of an unsafe system really runs counter to the efforts of all levels of government to build a world-class system in Vancouver,” McGarrigle said.

With bus ridership recovering from the pandemic and plans to expand bus service in the region, the union wants safety issues to be addressed head-on, he said.

The death is the second serious stabbing on a Surrey bus in two weeks, although the first victim had his throat slit on April 1 and is recovering at home.

The suspect who attacked the teen has not been arrested, and Eby encouraged anyone with information or dash cam footage to come forward.

“This is a deeply worrying incident,” he said.

“It’s absolutely important that people are able to get on the bus to work, to school and to do fun things around their communities and do so without worrying about their safety. That’s our goal and it’s what all British Columbians deserve .”

Eby made the remarks at a Vancouver elementary school in a separate announcement announcing that 60 schools in the province will undergo seismic upgrades.

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