Police are looking for a young man who violently beat a Winnipeg Transit driver last month for not giving him a bus transfer.
Winnipeg police released a video of the explosive attack on Tuesday, asking for the public’s help identifying the man.
The incident happened on Sept. 14 around 12:30 p.m. when a man got on a bus at William Avenue and Isabel Street.
Police said the man didn’t pay the required fare and demanded a transfer from the 50-year-old driver. The video shows he then began beating the driver, punching him multiple times and kicking him.
Police originally released photos of the man on Oct. 2, but when they failed to identify a suspect, they released a video of the attack.
“When this type of violence is direct towards [bus drivers] we will take it seriously, and we will do all that we can to identify this fellow and bring him into custody,” Const. Eric Hofley told reporters. “We need to be clear that this type of behaviour is unacceptable.”
The attack lasted between two and three minutes, until two unknown men got on the bus and intervened. One of the men was also assaulted by the suspect. At one point the video dissolves, but police said it was because unidentified people on the bus enter the frame.
The young man was finally coaxed off the bus, but the confrontation continued with a group of strangers outside the bus, police said.
Anyone who can identify the suspect or has information about the attack is asked to contact police at 204-986-6668 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477.
Transit safety ongoing issue in Winnipeg
Safety on Winnipeg Transit buses has been an ongoing issue in Winnipeg, with concerns for drivers and passengers prompting a variety of proposals for new safety measures.
Earlier this year, city council received a report that recommended adding special constables to troublesome routes.
The Enhancing Public Safety on Transit report recommended hiring six officers, at a cost of more than $500,000 a year, to attend routes known to be dangerous for drivers and passengers.
Coun. Brian Mayes has long been calling for better security measures on Winnipeg Transit buses, but so far, the city has taken no action.
Malvinder Grewal has been a Winnipeg Transit driver for the past 10 years. He said he has been spat on several times, and drivers learn to live with a certain level of risk and abuse.
“I can take more than the average person I guess, coming from India. You learn to live with a lot of different things,” said Grewal. “Sometimes it does get rough, I guess. I guess I’ve been lucky.”
Passenger Deonauth Sarjuada has taken the bus for the past 23 years and said he usually feels safe, but occasionally passengers do disrespect drivers.
“I’ve been riding the bus for a while. [It happens] maybe once in a while,” said Sarjuada. “They just don’t want to be friendly. They just want to be sometimes rude or stuff like that.”
Bus-rider Marlene Bowman said she has a lot of sympathy for the people who have to deal with violent or angry passengers.
“For the bus driver I feel very bad because they deal with a lot, as you know,” said Bowman.
Assaults against bus drivers have actually be on the decline since 2009 but still happen about once a week.
Winnipeg Transit figures show 63 assaults happened in 2011 and 51 in 2012.
Buses equipped with cameras
All of the city’s 565 Winnipeg Transit buses are equipped with cameras and GPS systems. Transit authorities say they have seen an increase in convictions for assaults since they installed the cameras, and bus drivers are trained in assault prevention.
Officials said they are also studying new security methods for drivers.