Winnipeg Transit union wants police officers on buses
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 proposes having uniform and undercover officers on board
The union representing Winnipeg Transit drivers is calling on the city to have police officers on board buses to address the growing number of assaults and other unsafe situations.
Callahan told the board there have been 45 confirmed assaults on bus drivers so far this year, compared to 39 incidents in 2014.
Violence on transit buses generally peaks at around 4 p.m. and later in the evening, Callahan said.
In addition to assaults, there are drug deals and "grab-and-runs" going down on buses all the time, and the number of people not paying fares is growing, he said.
"There is almost a complete lack of respect out there for the transit system," he said, adding that having a firm police presence on buses "not only provides safety for our members, but for the public as well."
Callahan cited the transit system in Staten Island, N.Y., in which a combination of uniform and undercover officers ride on buses on a rotating basis.
"They had an over 80 per cent decrease in on-board assaults and over 90 per cent decrease in fare evasions, and they've maintained those numbers," he said.
The idea has been sent to the police board's strategic planning committee for further study.
Callahan said he has spoken with the Winnipeg Police Association about how to place officers on transit buses at little or no extra cost. However, he declined to elaborate on how it would work, saying revealing those details may impair the operational success of the program.
Several city councillors backed the idea of having a police officer on buses.
Daniel McIntyre Coun. Cindy Gilroy urged the police board to deploy police on transit buses, saying it may increase safety for women who are using transit.
St. Boniface Coun. Matt Allard agreed that it would be good to have some police presence — "not necessarily a cop on every bus, but a cop on some buses sometimes," he said.
Police Chief Devon Clunis said he is willing to look at any program that increases public safety, but he added that costs must be monitored.
With files from the CBC's Sean Kavanagh