Edmonton police LRT patrols net weapons, drugs, hundreds of arrests
755 criminal charges laid since LRT patrols began 18 months ago
In the first year and half of patrolling Edmonton's LRT system, city police have recovered weapons, drugs and laid hundreds of criminal charges.
Since a team of officers began their beat in July 2015, police have caught more than 1,000 people with outstanding criminal warrants, including sexual offenders.
In that time, while arresting and searching suspects on the trains, police have recovered weapons such as knives, brass knuckles, bear spray and replica guns.
If an offender knows cops are going to be on the train, then they're less likely to be even on the train- Sgt. Jacob Montgomery
"It's unbelievable the things we find," said Sgt. Jacob Montgomery, who is in charge of a team of eight LRT beat constables.
Since the beat program began, Montgomery's relatively small team has laid 755 criminal charges and executed 1,342 outstanding criminal warrants.
The beat constables are deployed in pairs along the entire LRT network.
"If something were to happen, something violent or something that would make anybody uncomfortable, they like seeing us here," said Const. Austin Lunde, an eight-year police veteran who has been a part of the team from the beginning.
During a walk-along with CBC News last Friday, police arrested one man on drug charges and another with an outstanding warrant for an unregistered firearm.
Both arrests were made after beat officers discovered the suspects were riding the train without paying the fare.
Making those checks in the train cars are a key part of their work.
While Montgomery, 35, acknowledged some passengers have complained about the checks, he insists it's all part of the team's focus to carry out high-visibility patrols.
"If an offender knows the cops are going to be on the train, then they're less likely to even be on the train, but if they are on the train they're going to be following all the rules," Montgomery said.
He likens the approach to the broken-window theory, believing that enforcing bylaws prevents more serious wrongdoing on the trains.
The arrest Friday night of a man for an unpaid fare is a case in point, Montgomery he noted.
"That quickly led to criminal warrants, that quickly led to drugs that were found in his pocket and breaching numerous release conditions," he said.
"He was on probation for assault with a weapon, so by taking him off the train we've prevented, likely, a criminal incident from occurring."
The suspect, who Montgomery said was found with 2.5 grams of meth, is now facing drug possession charges in addition to outstanding issues such as failing to attend court and breaches of probation orders.
Safety on the LRT has been a growing concern among Edmontonians following violent and even deadly incidents in the past few years.
A woman was shot dead at the Stadium LRT platform in 2010, and a man was beaten to death while riding the train in 2012.
The incidents unsettled passengers and help prompt Edmonton city council to fund the new beat program.
"When they see the police on there, you can see that look on their face, 'OK, thanks. The good guys are here,' " said Const. Andrew Furman, who has been on the LRT beat patrol since October 2015.
Until the beat team began its work, the safety and security of the LRT fell to Edmonton transit peace officers, a job Montgomery said they have done well even if they don't have the authority to lay criminal charges or search for warrants, which he said is making all the difference.
"When you see the numbers that the team has produced since July 2015 when the team started, it's unbelievable really what one sergeant and eight constables have executed," Montgomery said.
Police continue to work closely with transit officers, who play a key role in keeping the system safe.
Now, after the hundreds of criminal charges since the team was funded and assigned its beat, Montgomery is convinced the increased police presence and visibility is having an impact.
"I think Edmontonians can certainly feel safer."
Video produced by Trevor Wilson